While apples are all about quantity and glut, buckets of apples for cider making, huge pies and crumbles and endless chutney etc. Pears seem revered for their singularity and delicate flavour, if there was ever a fruit to be carried on a velvet cushion it would be a beautiful, blushed perfect pear. The Quince on the other hand is an ancient fruit enjoyed and praised for its culinary uses from ancient Prussia to medieval England and although more modern fruits have pushed it to the margins, it still has lots to recommend, not least it produces a tree with a beautiful habit, a rarity in most fruiting trees. Here are some to consider.
P.Buerre Hardy: Pollinator, from group 4. A pear that will cope well with the colder conditions in northern England. A strong grower with good upright habit and good autumn tints. It is dual use. Fruiting in October with large, copper, russeted red fruit, with an excellent flavour. Pick when still hard and allow to ripen in store.
Q. Meeches’s Prolific: Self-fertile, with a hansom shaped tree, which is slow growing and needs no pruning. With delicate wide single open blossom white blushed pink, it is a beautiful tree. Large pear shaped fruit, October, with a dusty down finish. A regular and heavy cropper.
P.Concorde: This well know pear is very reliable and partially self-fertile, although fruiting will be more guaranteed with a pollinator from group 3. This pear produces a good compact tree. Fruiting October/November with dessert fruit, which are born in clusters, Long pale green fruit, ripening blushed yellow. Can be picked ripe from the tree, or equally pick hard and keep in the fridge and ripen one at a time.
Q. varanja (Bereczchi):A very vigorous tree, with all the habit and growth as described above. Named after the Serbian Pomologist called Bereczchi. It produces large very golden fruit, with a good flavour and is a good cropper. Fruit September/October.
P. Doyenne du Comice: Pollinator from group 4. One of the best know older varieties of fruit, produces a strong growing tree, with vigorous growth. Fruit November/December. Large golden fruit, with slight russeting and a red flush. A delicious flavour, this dessert pear is a good keeper, lasting up to April in store.
P. Williams Bon Chrretien: Pollinator group 3. Must be one of the most widely planted and best known of pears, it will even grow very happily on a north wall as an espalier. This dessert pear fruits in September. With large pale yellow fruit and juicy white flesh with a delicious flavour.
P.Shinseiki: Asian pears, offer a delightful twist on pear growing. This early variety is self-fertile, producing at the end of August into September, round rust coloured fruit about the size of an apple. With white crisp flesh with an aromatic flavour.
All pears do best in a warm sheltered spot. They like a good water retentive soil, they do not like dry conditions. Root Stocks, Pears are grown on either Quince A ( approx 16ft.)
or on Quince C (approx 10 -12ft) root stock. They can be grown as stand alone trees or a cordons or as traditional espalier, up a warm wall and a more modern approach is now fan trained pears up a wall.
Storing of Pears and Quinces: Quinces, bruise easily and even if you have picked the perfect fruit and keep it in ideal conditions, they just do not keep. Best to get going with the pies, jams, and fruit cheese straight away. Or peal and quarter dip in cool water with lemon juice, pat dry and weigh, bag and freeze for future use.
Pears on the other hand vary, some it is best to pick when hard and store to ripen. All fruit that is to be stored must be without any blemishes and dry. Store somewhere with out strong odours, so not next to the stack of paint pots and the old tub of creosote in the garage. The store wants to be dry and ventilated if possible and most important of all vermin free, as the mice will love your stored fruit. Then put the fruit on trays lined with tissue paper, so each pear dose not touch. Or if space is an issue then wrap each fruit in a couple of sheets of tissue paper and stack in a box, 1 layer per box is best but 2 layers is the maxim. Keep an eye on your fruit, it is a fine line between a slightly hard pear and a ‘sleepy’ pear. For a small crop, keeping the pears in the bottom draw of the fridge and just bringing a couple out at a time to ripen over a few days in a fruit bowl, also works well. Long term storage of pears is only for ‘keepers’. Others will need to be enjoyed ripened straight from the tree.
I hope I have inspired you to find a spot for the ‘noble fruit’ or enjoy the ancient fruit of the Quince tree. Making sure you choose the right root stock, for your site and situation.