Crisp, sweet, and ready to eat right off the tree, Asian pears (Pyrus pyrifolia) are available in three types. Trees may produce flat or rounded, yellow or green fruit; bronze, flat or round fruit with paler bronze markings; or pearlike fruit with green or reddish-brown skin. Most Asian pears have excellent shelf life, says retired pomologist James Beutel of the University of California-Davis Cooperative Extension. While self-fruiting, trees may produce larger crops with cross-pollination.
Dating to the early 1900s, 20th Century (Nijisseki) is Japan’s best-selling Asian pear variety. These trees produce round, yellow richly flavored pears that ripen in the middle of August. Although susceptible to bruising, they retain their flavor for up to six months in cold storage. Without regular pruning, older 20th Century trees produce small pears, according to the University of California Extension.
Chojuro Asian pear trees produce abundant mid-August crops of flat, firm brown pears that last up to five months in storage. Picking the fruit at its yellow-brown stage is essential to prevent significant bruising. These trees, however, are falling from favor because their fruit lacks the juiciness of many recent Asian pear cultivars, advises the University of California Extension.
Grafted onto birch-leaved pear (Pyrus betulaefolia) rootstock, Hosui Asian pear trees have a loose form and large, bronze fruit. These trees are rapidly gaining popularity because of their pears’ low acidity, juiciness and sweet taste. The University of California Extension notes that fire blight is a serious threat to Hosui Asian pear trees.
One of the earliest producing Asian pear trees, Shinsieki is ready for harvest in late July. Its firm, round yellow fruit is similar to--although larger than--20th Century’s pears. Its shelf life, at three months, is considerably shorter. The fruit, however, will remain on the tree without spoiling to allow multiple harvests, according to the University of California Extension.
An erect, productive and fire blight resistant tree, Shinko has early September fruit. Its bronze pears are slightly flat to round, developing the sweetest flavor where summers are hot. It lacks the extended shelf life of other Asian pear varieties. The University of California Extension cautions that Shinko trees become significantly less productive as they age.
With cross-pollination from another Asian pear tree variety, the Nitaka tree is an abundant producer. Its large pears have reddish-brown skin and firm--but only averagely sweet--flesh. Ready for harvest in early Spetember, the pears last two months in storage. The University of California Extension warns that grafting this tree to European pear (Pyrus communis) rootstock results in excessive dwarfing. On birch-leaved rootstock, it thrives.