The European Pear Pyrus communis is a species of pear native to central and eastern Europe and southwest Asia. The European Pear is one of the most important fruits of temperate regions, being the species from which most orchard pear cultivars grown in Europe, North America and Australia are developed. Two other species of pear, the Nashi Pear, Pyrus pyrifolia, and the Chinese white pear bai li, Pyrus × bretschneideri, are more widely used in eastern Asia.
The European pear is thought to be decended from two species of wild pear, categorized as Pyrus pyraster
and P. caucasica
, which are interfertile with the domesticated species. Archeological evidence shows that pears "were collected from the wild long before their introduction into cultivation," according to Zohary and Hopf. Although they point to finds of pears in sites in Neolithic
and Bronze Age
European sites, "reliable information on pear cultivation first appears in the works of the Greek
and the Roman
, Cato the Elder
and Pliny the Elder
all present information about the cultivation and grafting
European pear trees are not quite as hardy as apples, but nearly so. They do however require some winter chilling to produce fruit.
For best and most consistent quality, European Pears are picked when the fruit matures, but before they are ripe. Fruit allowed to ripen on the tree often drops before it can be picked and in any event will be hard to pick without bruising. They store (and ship) well in their mature but unripe state if kept cold and can be ripened later, a process called "bletting". Some varieties, such as 'Beurre d'Anjou', ripen only with exposure to cold.
Fermented pear juice is called perry. The place name Perry can indicate the historical presence of pear trees.
In the United States, 95% of reported pear production in 2004 came from four cultivars:
- 50% Williams' Bon Chrétien (England, ca. 1770; a summer pear commonly called Bartlett in the U.S. and Canada, and Williams elsewhere)
- 34% Beurre d'Anjou (France, a winter pear commonly called just d'Anjou)
- 10% Beurre Bosc (Also known as Kaiser Alexander, a winter pear commonly called just Bosc or Kaiser)
- 1% Doyenné du Comice (France, 1849; commonly called Comice pears)
Selected European Pear cultivars
- 'Abate Fetel' (syn. Abbé Fetel; a major cultivar in Italy)
- 'Ayers' (United States - an interspecific P. communis × P. pyrifolia hybrid from the University of Tennessee)
- 'Blake's Pride' (United States)
- 'Butirra Precoce Morettini'
- 'Clara Frijs' (major cultivar in Denmark)
- 'Concorde' (England - a seedling of 'Conference' × 'Doyenné du Comice)
- 'Conference' (England, 1894)
- 'Corella' (Australia)
- 'Coscia' (very early maturing cultivar from Italy)
- 'Dr. Jules Guyot'
- 'Glou Morceau' (Belgium, 1750)
- 'Gorham' (United States)
- 'Harrow Delight' (Canada)
- 'Harrow Sweet' (Canada)
- 'Joséphine de Malines' (France)
- 'Kieffer' (United States - a hybrid of the Chinese "sand pear", P. pyrifolia and probably 'Bartlett')
- 'Laxton's Superb' (England; no longer used due to high susceptibility to fireblight)
- 'Luscious' (United States)
- 'Merton Pride' (England, 1941)
- 'Orient' (United States - an interspecific P. communis × P. pyrifolia hybrid)
- 'Packham's Triumph' (Australia, 1896)
- 'Pineapple' (United States - an interspecific P. communis × P. pyrifolia hybrid)
- 'Red Bartlett' (United States - There are three major red-skinned mutant clones: 'Max Red Bartlett', 'Sensation Red Bartlett', 'Rosired Bartlett')
- 'Rosemarie' (South Africa)
- 'Seckel' (United States; early 19th century Philadelphia area; still produced, naturally resistant to fireblight)
- 'Starkrimson', also called Red Clapp's, is a red-skinned 1939 Michigan bud mutation of Clapp's Favourite. Its thick, smooth skin is a uniform, bright and intense red, and its creamy flesh is sweet and aromatic.
- 'Summer Beauty'
- 'Taylor's Gold' (New Zealand - a russeted mutant clone of 'Comice')