The apple pear or Asian pear tree combines the crisp texture of an apple with the fragrant, honey flavor of the pear. In the United States, Asian pear production is limited primarily to California, Oregon and Washington, though the trees can grow elsewhere. Asian pears store well. The trees are fairly cold hardy and will not get damaged in a frost.
As the name suggests, Asian pears are native to Asia and grow primarily in Japan, China and Korea. Purdue University estimates that 4,000 to 5,000 acres of Asian pears grow in California, Oregon and Washington, all planted since 1981. While the initial market for this fruit in the United States was the influx of Asian immigrants, the Asian pear is slowly becoming more well known as a fruit choice.
Asian pear trees average 10 to 12 feet in height. They may either be trained to a central leader shape, as apple trees are, or a vase shape, common for peaches. The trees have ovoid bright green leaves with light green veins and grayish-brown bark.
Asian pears are round like apples. Most have a yellow, green or brown skin that feels rough, similar to that of a Bosc pear. The flesh inside varies from stark white to creamy white. Asian pears have a few black seeds in the center, much like an apple. The fruit is best eaten fresh, though it can be baked.
Growers can choose from many Asian pear cultivars. Nijisseki or 20th Century is the most popular in Japan and California, notes Purdue University. However, it bruises easily. Other commonly found varieties include Shinseki, Hosui, Shinko, Ya Li and Kosui. Shinko is the only Asian pear resistant to fire blight disease.
Asian pear trees are suited to hardiness zones 6 to 9, notes Johnson Nursery.