PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

August 12, 2011

Pears perfect for Southeast Texas

Micah Meyer
The Port Arthur News

— A coworker brought in a couple of pears to the office this week and I was more than happy to help eat them. Pears are an easy fruit tree for Jefferson County as long as you use varieties that are well adapted and plant them in an appropriate location.

Pears like full sun or as close to full sun as you can provide. They can grow into large trees, so plant them in an area with plenty of space. They prefer a sandy loam soil, but they will grow just fine in our clay soil as long as it is an area that drains well.

Three basic types of pears grown in the United States are European or French pears, Oriental hybrids and Asian pears. The European pears include such popular varieties as Bartlett, Bosc and D'Anjou. These and other common European varieties are especially noted for their excellent fresh eating quality. However, the susceptibility of European pears to fire blight excludes them from all but far west Texas.

Our variety selection is limited due to our mild winters and the presence of fire blight. Fire blight causes the branch tips to turn black and die back in the springtime. Some trees can be killed by it so that’s why we plant varieties that are tolerant or resistant to fire blight.

Keiffer is perhaps the most common pear tree in the south. It is a coarse pear that is better suited to canning and processing, rather than fresh eating. It tolerates fire blight and is a reliable, consistent bearing tree. Pineapple is another common pear variety in our area. It supposedly has a very slight pineapple flavor, hence the name. The tree is very productive and the fruit ripens in August. 

The Biscamp pear is a great pear for southeast Texas, but it is hard to find. Good for cooking, canning, and fresh eating. The Orient pear is a good quality, coarse textured pear that is a heavy producer and the fruit tends to ripen in late August. Hosui and 20th Century are the Asian Pear varieties that can sometimes be found in our area.

Pears are generally self-unfruitful, so two varieties are necessary for good fruit production. Pollen transfer is primarily by bees, so plant trees of different varieties within 40 to 50 feet of each other. Some varieties are partially self fruitful, but production will be much greater if pollinated by another tree.

Pears are ready to harvest when they change from hard to firm. Harvest maturity is usually indicated by a slight change from green to yellow. Mature fruit will begin to drop even though still hard, if harvest is delayed. Most pear varieties in Texas reach harvest maturity in August and September.

Micah Meyer is county extension agent-horticulture of the Texas AgriLife Extension Service in Jefferson County. He can be reached at 409-835-8461 or cmmeyer@ag.tamu.edu.