Asian or Oriental Pears
The Asian or oriental pear has been in this country since the late 1800s but has not been planted regularly until the last 10 years. These pears, sometimes referred to as oriental pears, Chinese pears, or Japanese pears, are considerably different from the old, hard, homegrown varieties like Keiffer and Seckel. Asian pears have a distinct but pear-like taste and a crisp texture, much like a good apple. Many Asian pear varieties also have an apple-like shape, and this combination of taste, texture, and shape causes many people to refer to them as "apple pears." They are sometimes also called "salad pears" or "sand pears." Their flesh is crisp, sometimes gritty, and always very sweet. They do not have the buttery flesh of European pears. Their skin is often russetted.
Harvesting Asian Pears
Asian pears, unlike European pears, ripen on the tree. They do not need a cold storage period. Asian pears are ready for harvest when you easily remove them from the spur or branch by slightly lifting and twisting them. Use the taste test--they're ready when they taste good. Asian pears should be crisp and crunchy when eaten.
The biggest problem with the adaptation of Asian pears has been fire blight, which attacks pears and apples and can kill blooms, young tender shoots, and sometimes major limbs and whole trees. Plant at least two Asian pear varieties to assure cross-pollination and good fruit set. Do not rely on common pear varieties to pollinate Asian pears. Pear trees should be trained and pruned in a similar fashion as apples. Asian pears tend to overproduce and need to be thinned shortly after bloom. Approximately 2 to 3 weeks after bloom, shake the branches of the tree to force any fruit that has stopped developing to drop. Starting at the end of a branch, cut off all but one fruit per cluster and space the clusters about 8 inches apart. This may mean totally removing some clusters. Be sure to remove the fruit with pruning shears; do not pull or twist the fruit off. Pulling the fruit off may damage the fruit spur and prevent flowering next year.
The Shinseiki variety tends to be self-fruitful, but it still benefits from cross-pollination. Other cultural methods used on regular pears should be followed for Asian pears. Many varieties are being tried, but to date the following are the best as measured by overall grower and consumer preferences.
Hosui: Large, yellowish-brown, russet fruit with prominent lenticels and excellent quality. Many prefer the taste of this variety. Fruit must be thinned to obtain adequate size. Fruit matures mid- to late August.
Kosui: Apple-shaped, small- to medium-sized fruit. Skin is brown and fruit mature in mid- to late August.
Olympic: Variously known as A-Ri-Rang, Korean Giant, or Olympic Giant and is a new variety developed in Korea. Fruits are large, late, round, and have an attractive golden russetted skin. Reportedly, this pear's bloom period overlaps with Bartlett, and the two make compatible pollinizers. Olympic has the longest storage life of the Asian pears
Shinseiki (New Century): Yellow-green to yellowskinned type, medium-sized, good- to excellent-flavored fruit that ripens early. Flesh is creamy white with a very sweet taste. Fruit is round to oblong. Fruit matures in early to mid-August.
Twentieth Century (Nijisseiki): Yellow-skinned type that is the most popular variety worldwide. It has very good medium to large fruit. One of the most susceptible to fire blight.