A pear that is at the peak of its ripeness is really hard to beat – especially if you have been able to pluck it from the tree in your own garden. There are so many varieties of this wonderful genus, that there is surely a variety to suit all tastes. From the firm and crunchy to the soft and juicy they are superb for eating fresh and there are so many yummy ways in which to incorporate them into other dishes.
With their modest moisture requirements, pears also suit coastal conditions and thrive in heavy, sandy loams with good drainage in a sunny position. They are ideal for cool-temperate climates. They must be cross-pollinated to produce fruit. Prune to remove damaged branches and to improve the shape of the tree in late winter or early spring. Plentiful sunlight is a key factor for maximum fruit production. Choose an area of the garden in full or nearly full sun. Morning sunshine is particularly important for early drying of dew, thereby reducing the incidence of disease.
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Plant pear trees in the winter or early spring whilst they are dormant. Soak the roots in water for 30 minutes to an hour before planting to ensure that the root ball is thoroughly moist. The pear tree lends itself well to Espalier and nowadays one can purchase a tree that has three varieties grafted onto it – imagine that – three in one!
The genus is thought to have originated in present-day western China in the foothills of the Tian Shan Mountains, and to have spread to the east and west along mountain chains, evolving into a diverse group of over 20 widely recognized primary species. The cultivation of the pear extends to the remotest antiquity. Traces of it have been found in the Swiss lake-dwellings; it is mentioned in the oldest Greek writings, and was cultivated by the Romans. The word "pear" or its equivalent occurs in all the Celtic languages. Pears have been cultivated in China for aproximately 3000 years.
Some favorite ways to serve pears include:
• Combine pears with mustard greens, watercress, steamed leeks and walnuts for a delicious salad.
• Serve pears with goat or blue cheese for a delightful dessert.
• Add choped pears, grated ginger and honey to porridge or muesli for a pungently sweet breakfast treat.
• Core pears, and poach in aple juice or wine for a delectable dessert.