The Orchard at
Sage Hen Farm:
Pears

Hewes Crab blossom

At Sage Hen Farm in Lodi, NY, our orchard is mostly apple trees, but we have other fruit trees as well.
Pears
are on this page. Together on one page are Peaches, Plums, and Cherries.

At the bottom of the page are tips for picking pears off a tree.

Pears
Variety
Origin
Date
Fruit
Size
Skin &
Flesh
Harvest & Maturity Merits & Faults

Giffard
(Beurre Giffard [some sources spell it Gifford]
)
(chance seedling)
France
found 1825; introduced to North America by 1850.

Gifford pears

GRIN

small, but variable in size
classic pear shape
yellow-green with red cheek
white with tinges of yellow, crisp, granular, tender, very juicy
harvest when mature in early August.

Merits: hardy (to zone 4); one of the few pears that can be eaten almost immediately after it is picked; moderately resistant to fire blight; few grit cells & only at center.

Faults: tree slow to mature; fruit does not keep long.

Bull1891: 6-7/**; Bull1909: vg; Downing: "an early Pear of value," vg; Elliot: v; Hedrick: "one of the most refreshing summer fruits," vg.

Clapp's Favorite
(Clapp Favorite)

(chance seedling – Bartlett x Flemish Beauty?)
Dorchester, MA
before 1860

Clapp's Favorite pears

GRIN

large
somewhat more roundish than classic pear shape
yellow with a red cheek
white, fine-grained, buttery, and juicy.

harvest mid August so so they will be ready to eat by the third week of August

Merits: hardy (to zone 4); tree grows well in heavy soils; tree is spreading and drooping, making picking easier and fruit more uniform in size; very productive.

Faults: fruit center softens soon after ripening; does not keeps long; very susceptible to fire blight; some grit cells present.

Bull1891: 6-7/**; Bull1909: g; Downing: "extremely fine and valuable," vg; Elliott: vg; Hedrick: vg

Tyson
(thought to be Seckel open seedling)
Jenkintown, PA
before 1800
Tyson pears
GRIN

small to medium
classic pear shape, but irregular

deep yellow, with crimson cheek, slightly russeted


creamy yellow, fine-grained; very sugary, very juicy
harvest when mature starting in mid August

Merits: hardy (to zone 4); very productive; fruit keeps well for earlier ripening variety; resistant to fire-blight; few or no grit cells.

Faults: slow to mature; tall, upright grower, so must be trained; fruits can be poorly colored.

Bull1891: 7-8/**; Bull1909: vg-b; Downing: vg-b; Elliott: best; Hedrick: "best pear of its season...were the fruits larger, would rival Bartlett for market," vg

Magness
(Seckel x Comice)
Maryland
released 1968

Magness pears

GRIN

medium greenish yellow with blushes of red
soft, fine-grained, rich, complex flavor, juicy
harvest in late August so mellowed and ready to eat first week in September

Merits: tree spreading, resistant to fire blight; excellent keeper; almost free of grit cells.

Faults: low yield, pollen sterile

Patten
(Orel 15 x Anjou)
Iowa
released 1922
on BET
Patten pear
GRIN
medium to large
classic pear shape
golden yellow with red blush and some russeting
firm, fine-grained
harvest in mid September so mellowed and ready to eat starting in late September Merits: very hardy (to zone 3); moderately heavy cropper; good pollinator; few grit cells.

Faults: slow to bear fruit; upright grower, so must be trained; must be picked early; highly susceptible to fireblight

Seckel
(Sugar Pear, Shakespear)

Philadelphia, PA
before 1760
on BET
Seckel pears
GRIN

small
roundish
brownish yellow-green overlaid with dull red and some russetting

creamy white, intensely sweet (honeyed), spicy
harvest in mid to last September so mellowed and ready to eat starting first week of October

Merits: hardy (to zone 4); very productive, regular cropping; self fertile; moderately resistant to fire blight; intensely sweet & spicy; no grit cells

Faults: thinning needed to help increase fruit size; fruit does not keep well.

Bull1891: 10/**; Bull1909: vg-b; Downing: "we to not hesitate to pronounce this American Pear the richest and most exquisitely flavored variety we know," Elliott: best

Vermont Beauty
(Forelle open seedling?)
Vt & NY
around 1880

GRIN

medium lemon yellow with a bright red
blush & pinkish-red dots

yellow-tinged, tender, melting, fine-grained; juicy
harvest in late September so mellowed and ready to eat starting second week of October

Merits: very hardy (to zone 3); naturally spreading tree; very few grit cells.

Faults: susceptible to scab and fireblight.

Bull1909: vg; Hedrick: "best for satisfying the eye for bright color," vg

Note: UP Hedrick, in Pears of New York, thought it not improbable that Vermont Beauty was identical to Forelle (Trout) pear, but it has since been determined that they are not the same.

Bosc
(Beurre Bosc)

Belgium
circa 1800; introduced to North America in 1832

GRIN

large
classic pear shape
dark yellow with streaks of russet
white, tender, very buttery, and juicy
harvest in early to mid October so mellowed and ready to eat starting third week of October

Merits: hardy (to zone 4); very productive; excellent keeper

Faults: susceptible to fire blight.

Bull1891: 10/**; Bull1909: vg-b; Downing: we give our unqualified praise, of the highest flavor; Elliott: best

Dana Hovey
(Dana's Hovey, Winter Seckel)

(Seckel open seedling)
Roxbury, MA
before 1855

GRIN

small

rounder than classic pear shape

golden-yellow, russeted
yellowish, rich, sugary, tender
harvest in mid or late October so mellowed and ready to eat starting in November

Merits: moderately heavy cropper; spreading tree; adapts to a variety of soils; scab and insect resistant; highly aromatic; fruit keeps well

Faults: slow to mature; susceptible to fire blight

Bull1891: 10/**; Bull09: vg-b; Downing: "one of the highest flavored Pears that we have known," best; Elliott: best

Bull1891 = "Catalog of Fruits Recommended for Cultivation; Division I: Fruits Mainly Adapted to Northern Localities; Section 1: Apples," U.S. Department of Agriculture, Division of Pomology. Bulletin, 1891 [Ratings are from 1 (very poor) to 10 (best); rating after / indicates notation for District No. 2 that includes New York's Finger Lakes (NR either not reported or not recommended; * known to succeed; ** highly successful; + promising]. Revisions were made in 1897 and 1899, but no changes were made in pear ratings. Bull1909 refers to the revision of 1909 when more traditional ratings replaced the numerical system: g=good, vg=very good, and vg-b=very good to best. Downing = Andrew Jackson Downing. The Fruits and Fruit-Trees of America, 1865; Elliott = Franklin Elliott. Handbook for Fruit Growers, 1876. From his list of the best pear varieties. Hedrick = U.P. Hedrick. The Pears of New York, 1921.

GRIN = detailed descriptions of pear varieties from the collection of the U.S. National Plant Germplasm System. Pears are part of National Clonal Germplasm Repository in Corvallis, Oregon.


Tips for picking pears

Ralph Waldo Emerson biographer John McAleer wrote of Emerson that "In autumn and in winter he kept pears ripening on the back of his bookshelves and, on occasion, might interrupt his work to reward himself with one. The selection was done with care since he believed there were only ten minutes in the life of a pear when it was perfect to eat." The idea is older than Emerson, and has also been attributed to an unknown French gourmand. [Thanks to quotation sleuth Garson O'Toole for tracking that quote down for me.]

Most pears do not ripen well on the tree, at least as far as humans are concerned. They ripen from the inside out while on the tree, and humans don't like that. For the best eating experience, pears need to be picked when their fruit is mature but not fully ripe. Hmm? Mature in this case means slightly immature, but far enough along that that they will ripen properly. These are some tips to figure out when that moment is. Keep in mind, however, that I'm still trying to figure it out.

Clues
  1. Wait for them to be full size. This tip requires knowing when they are full size and factoring in how much thinning was done on the tree and how hot and wet the season has been.
  2. Watch for the changes in the skin. Unfortunately the differences can be subtle, and different pears do different things. Some brighten in color, but red varieties lose brightness. Some change to its mature color. Some go from green to yellow. Bosc goes from green to bronze. Unfortunately this works for some varieties, but not other.
  3. Look for drops. Pears can drop for several reasons, but one of them is they were ready to be picked.
  4. Check the calendar. Keep your own records or check on line for when others have harvested pears. The harvest times listed here are for the Finger Lakes area of New York State. We are in Zone 5b according to the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map, but since we are in a frost pocket it is more like Zone 5a. However, the same tree can ripen up to two weeks either way from an average harvest date.
  5. Cut one open and check the color of the seed color. Mature pears have dark brown seeds.
Testing by picking
  1. Grab a pear gently and tilt it up until it is higher than horizontal. If the pear's stem breaks away easily, it was indeed a ready-to-be-picked pear. If it doesn’t, let it stay on the tree for another day.
  2. You can add a slight twist as you tilt to double check.
Waiting for pears
  1. Most varieties of pears take about a week or ten days to ripen after they have been (properly) picked. Once they have been picked, leave them at room temperature. Don't refrigerate unripe pears.* For faster results, put them in a brown paper bag. Then you may only have to wait four or five days. Also the higher the room temperature, the more quickly they will ripen.
    *That is the common advice. However, pear expert David Sugar says pears actually need to be chilled in order to ripen properly. So perhaps you should refrigerate them.
  2. As Emerson may have observed, there is a narrow window when pears are at their perfection for eating.
  3. To test a pear, pinch it around the stem or apply pressure toward the area near the stem with a finger or thumb. If it gives slightly, it’s ready to be consumed – even if elsewhere the pear still feels firm. This is supposed to work well, but we are still trying to figure out just what to giving slightly means.
  4. Once they are ripe, it is fine to store pears in the refrigerator.
Exceptions
  1. Some early ripening varieties, called summer pears by some, can be picked ripe straight off the tree. We pick Giffard and Tyson ripe of the tree. Most of their fruits are just right for fresh eating, but others not quite ready to eat, and a few have already gone mushy. Although Clapp's Favorite also ripens early, we pick them like most pears – a week or more before they are ready to eat.
  2. Seckel doesn't ripen early, but it has a reputation of ripening well on the tree. When you are trying to figure out if Seckels are ready to pick, things to look for are the background skin color turning from green to yellow-green and the skin developing a waxy look. Like other pears, also check for softness around the stem, look for drops, and sample one. If some are ripe and others aren't, pick both kinds and just deal with the unripe ones like other pears.
  3. Bosc pears can be difficult to separate from its twig even when they should be picked.

 

This page written and maintained by John R. Henderson [jhenderson @ ithaca.edu].
Last modified: August 5, 2018
URL: http://www.sagehenfarmlodi.com/pear.html