Asian pears, most of which have an apple-like shape, are popular in China, Japan and Korea. They generally have a more crisp texture than traditional Western pears, but they are often not as flavorful until they have been stored for some time. Five major varieties are grown in Europe and North America, plus numerous cultivars.
The Hosui is a large pear that ripens in August. It is sweet and juicy, with a low acid content, but it goes soft easily in storage, where it will only last two or three months. The vigorous trees are spreading and open but are susceptible to fire blight.
A cultivar of an Asian pear that was developed in Europe, the Olympic is large and round with a golden, reddish-brown skin. It matures late in the growing season. It stores longer than the other Asian pears. Its bloom period is said to overlap with the Bartlett, making it useful for cross-pollination.
The popular Shinseiki is a round, yellow pear that can be stored up to three months. This pear does not require cross pollination. It does require multiple harvest and is one of the Asian pears most frequently grown in California.
Shinko is a large, round fruit with bronze-russet skin. The well-shaped trees are productive, although the fruit will only last about two months in storage. It is said to be resistant to fire blight.
The 20th Century pear is known as the Nijisseiki in Japan, where it originated about a century ago. The round, yellow-skinned pears bruise easily but can be stored up to six months. Their distinctive flavor develops when they are slightly overripe. The trees need to be thinned aggressively so the fruit will grow to full size.
There are many other cultivars, some hybridized from the Asian pears above.
Chojuro is a flat pear, orange to brown in color. The trees are productive, but the pear is not very juicy. It can be stored for up to five months.
Ichiban is a large, early-maturing brown pear that ripens in mid-July.
Kikusui is a yellow-green, flavorful pear. Growers have a problem with the pears dropping from the tree, and the trees are susceptible to fire blight. The tender skins won’t withstand shipping, but if the Kikusui pears are handled carefully, they can be sold in farmers markets.
Kosui is a small, flat, bronze-colored pear. The Kosui is sweet, but has tender skin. It ripens in mid-July, and it is sensitive to spider mites.
Niitaka is a large, brown pear. This pear is not flavorful, but the trees are productive. It ripens in September and can be stored for two months. The pollen can’t be used for other cultivars.
Okusankichi is a brown-russet colored Japanese and Korean pear that ripens in October. The elongated, irregularly shaped pear stores well. Its flavor improves in storage.
Ya Li is a large, green Chinese pear in the traditional pear shape. It has a sweet, mild flavor, but it ripens over a long period of time in late August and early September, requiring numerous harvests. It stores well until February.
Shinsui is a brown pear that ripens in July after Ichiban pears but before Shinseiki pears.
Yoinashi is a brown-skinned, flavorful pear that ripens at the same time as the 20th Century pear. It has been suggested as a replacement for the 20th Century pear in the Pacific Northwest.
Tse Li, sometimes spelled Tsu Li, is a large, green pear in the shape of a football. It ripens in early to mid-September when it develops a greasy feel. It can be stored from six to ten months. The longer it is stored, the better it tastes. California growers report that the Tse Li can only be pollinated by the Ya Li.