Asian pears were introduced into California by the Chinese laborers around 1850. The trees were grown from seed and their quality varied widely. Since the early 1900’s there have been named varieties imported from China, Japan, and Korea. Additionally, there have been university programs and a few private breeders developing new varieties here in the USA. The time to develop a new variety may take ten to fifteen years! Each successful new variety results from many years of working and of testing hundreds of seedling trees. They’re sweet, crunchy to the bite and amazingly juicy. Asian pears keep in the refrigerator ready to eat for a month.
The most popular and well-known pear in America, the Bartlett is instantly recognizable with its handsome medium green color and large, shapely appearance. As it ripens, the color becomes a bright yellow. Popular for fresh-eating, the Bartlett also excels in the kitchen and is good for cooking and canning. The Bartlett Pear we know today in North America, is the same variety that is called the “Williams” in many other parts of the world. Discovered originally in 1765 by a schoolmaster in England named Mr. Stair, the Bartlett was first referred to as Stair’s Pear. A nurseryman named Williams later acquired the variety, and after introducing it to the rest of England, the pear became known as the Williams Pear. It’s full name, however, is Williams’ Bon Chretien, which translates to “Williams’ good Christian.” About 1799, Mr. James Carter imported several Williams trees to the United States, and they were planted on the grounds of Thomas Brewer in Roxbury, Massachusetts. Later, Enoch Bartlett of Dorchester, Massachusetts acquired the Brewer estate. Not knowing the identity of the trees, Bartlett propagated and introduced the variety to the United States under his own name. It was not until 1828, when new trees arrived from Europe, that it was realized that Bartlett and Williams pears were one and the same. By then it was too late… the variety had become widely popular in the U.S. under it’s adopted name… the Bartlett.
Bosc stand out in a crowd for many reasons. Their long curved stem, and elegant elongated neck which widens gradually to a full rounded base, creates a silhouette that is unique among pears. Bosc are also unique for their color: a warm earthy brown that appears with russeting over the surface of the skin. Because Bosc Pears have a more firm, dense flesh than other pear varieties, they are ideal for use in cooking; baking, broiling, poaching. They retain their shape and texture better than other varieties, and their flavor is less likely to be overwhelmed by the use of spices like cinnamon, clove or nutmeg. Of course, they are also excellent for fresh eating, particularly by those who prefer a more firm texture.
The original and proper name for the variety is Beurré d’Anjou, supposed to have originated in the vicinity of Angers, France. Thomas Rivers, who was an author and pomologist, introduced it to England in the 19th century. It was introduced to America by Col. Marshall P. Wilder, Boston, about 1842, and first fruited on his estate in 1845. Beurré is the French word for butter, or buttery. The small d in front of Anjou means “of” or “from” Hence, a buttery pear from Anjou or Angiers.
The Red Bartlett is almost identical to the Bartlett, except for its red rusty color. It is also good for fresh eating, cooking and canning and is sweet and juicy. This variety, known also as ‘Max Red’, was first discovered as a bud sport on a regular Bartlett tree near Zillah, Washington in 1938. A “bud sport” is a naturally occurring transformation that develops occasionally on fruit trees. Often they are unnoticed, and even when discovered, the resulting fruit is not always commercially viable.
Red Anjou’s originated as naturally occurring bud sports found on Green Anjou trees. “Bud sports” are transformations that occur on trees, and they are most often unnoticed. Even when they are discovered, they usually don’t lead to any new commercially viable fruit. Red Anjou’s, however, are an exception. Actually, they are an exception that occurred twice, as the first red sport of Anjou was discovered in the early 1950’s near Medford, Oregon, and a second red sport was discovered in the late 1970’s in Parkdale, Oregon.
Good things, they say, often come in small packages. In the case of the diminutive Seckel, this could not be more truthful. The smallest of all commercially grown pears, Seckels are also the sweetest. So sweet in fact, that the near bite-size morsels are sometimes called “sugar pears.” Seckels are believed by many to be the only truly American variety of pear in commercial production. Unlike other varieties developed in the U.S. from a cross or bud sport of other European cultivars, Seckels are thought to have originated as a wild seedling near Philadelphia. They were discovered in the early 1800’s. This may or may not be true, however. It is possible that German immigrants travelling westward through the area dropped fruit or left seeds behind.