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Pears


Beautiful in Blossom, Handsome in Winter,
Elegant in Leaf, and Delicious in Fruit



 

domestic pear in bloom
 

Four decades of Growing Good Food in the Northwoods of Michigan's Upper Peninsula
Down to Earth Information, Experiences, Thoughts

 

L'Anse

Patton

Stacey

Summercrisp

The very first planting on our new homestead was some apple trees and a Bartlett pear, maybe something else. Purchased from a nursery downstate it was what they recommended. We brought them north and planted them in the newly fenced (we did know about deer) cold and wind-swept (except from the west) garden-orchard area in 1978. We had no amendments to add to the old worn-out sod soil, no mulch to help the new trees get established, little water to help them thrive, no time to devote to the new orchard, and no knowledge of pruning. And most of the varieties weren't the best choices for the cold north. Yet many of the apple trees lived to set fruit. The Bartlett didn't make it past the first few winters. It wasn't its fault; it was a poor choice, especially with so little initial care.
     But the rootstock, likely a seedling common pear, did survive. It grew into a beautiful tree (see photo above). With no pruning it was allowed its natural form and no limit to size. Forty years later it's about 35 feet tall and 20 wide. It blossoms profusely and sometimes sets an amazing number of equally amazingly bitter, astringent little 1" pears. Cute they are, and the deer love them, but food for humans they aren't. But that's OK; we don't have to eat everything.
     But that was the end of my pear planting until 2003 I bought and planted a Stacey Pear from Fedco, then in 2006 a Summercrisp. They are both small, hardy, sweet "snack" pears, though they are just starting to give more than very small sampling harvests. Pears in general are independent and take their own good time to fruit. But they are well worth the wait. Which is why I do rather wish I'd continued the pear planting. But it wasn't to be -- until now. See the story below of my re-entry into the pear world. Now we're expanding the orchard beyond it's newly expanded fenced area -- so I can plant more pears (and probably other fruit as well!).


Pear Faith - September 11, 2017

L'Anse pear graft growingMost of the 30 grafts we did in May grew which is nice. A few I figure the scions were not good to begin with (lesson learned to really look at the scion before grafting, not after, to make sure it’s alive!). A few we thought were pretty iffy and it would be a miracle if they grew -- a very small diameter scion grafted with a simple splice graft (there wasn’t enough wood for a whip-and-tongue graft) onto a similarly very small rootstock or shoot. But to my surprise these took and are growing. Then there are a few that I don’t know why they didn’t grow any leaves from their buds as the scion is still alive (small scratch with a knife shows green cambium). We’ll see; there have been reports from others about scions popping the next spring. Hope so! There is a lot of variety in the growth between them all, of course, so many different variables, but the rest show anywhere from just a few small leaves to more than a foot of growth. I love walking around cheering them all on. But one in particular is exciting to me -- the L’Anse pear.

Last September we were at a polka dance in L’Anse and a young couple brought in a wonderful basket of beautiful medium-small pears for the snack table. My experience with pears was pretty much limited to occasional canned ones and a few of our first small Stacey & Summercrisp pears. Not expecting much, but very happy to have something other than sugar snacks, both Steve and I took one. Then I took a bite. Wow! I had no idea pears could be that good. Nicely sweet, smooth, great texture. Immediately I went back to the table for another one.

L'anse pearsOf course I wanted to know more about the pears. But this was a large lively noisy polka party and the young couple had their three young children with them to manage so in-depth conversation just wasn’t going to happen. But I found out that the trees were “old” (inherited when they bought the house), were well known in the area for decades of good fruit, were wonderfully prolific, and they didn’t know the variety. Later, by quieter email, I got a promise for scions and more information. Their trees are growing near the south shore of Lake Superior.

I searched online and asked around, trying to put a variety label on these pears. The current owners shared this information with me:
     “This type I believe is either a Forelle pear or a Tyson pear. Many of the flavor characteristics remind me of the Tyson description, however the blushing seems to give it away to a Forelle. Perhaps it is neither of these. They typically come mid August - 1st week of September [we had them Sept. 17]. ... the blossoms I think they are pink. Very sweet, hints of cinnamon and other spicy flavors. ... fully matured pear trees are quite old -- I estimate that they were planted in the 1940's - 1950's.”

This chance encounter opened up a whole new world to me. There just aren’t that many pears growing in our area (yet!). Suddenly I wanted to plant more. I got 5 Ussuriensis Siberian (very hardy) rootstocks planted early spring and we grafted onto four of them -- the above pear onto two, plus a Patton and a Sauvignac (both old varieties). Then since we had extra scion pieces left we grafted two L’Anse pears, a Patton and a Sauvignac onto shoots of our very large old seedling chokepear. Neither Sauvignacs grew, and one of the rootstocks with a L’Anse graft died, but the other L’Anse pears and the Pattons have done well. It’s a long wait for fruit, and these little shoots have to make it through their first winter still, then the many years after that, but I’m feeling positive about them. We may never know the real identity of the L’Anse pears but that won’t stop us in the least from enjoying them thoroughly when they arrive finally on our homestead.



Stacey Pear Surprise - September 15, 2017

Stacey Pear fruitI have a beautiful healthy moderate sized 14 year old Stacey pear that has given me a few small fruit since age six. The last two years a bumper harvest of 22 to 36 pears! That’s individuals, not pounds. The fruit have all been small, more or less “pear” shaped. This year had just a handful of blossoms and at some point I noticed 2 “usual shaped” small pears. I picked them too early the end of August but appreciated the little fruits nonetheless. Then a few weeks later I happened to see one more. But this one was larger, and to my surprise, round. I picked it Sept. 9 -- a very nice 2” x 2 1/4" fruit. I looked online at the few photos I could fine of Stacey pears. Some showed the pear shape I’d gotten before, but a few showed round fruit like my latest (including Fedco which is where I’d purchased the tree).

I don’t know if it’s usual to have the two shapes on a tree but I’m hoping my tree decides to continue with the larger (relatively speaking) round fruit, and in the future a larger harvest. We ate the pear today and it was very good. This is what keeps me planting and caring for my fruit trees.





    


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Have you read  "Frost Dancing - Tips from a Northern Gardener" ? A fun short read.

or "Homesteading Adventures"    Creating our backwoods homestead--the first 20 years.

and "Growing Berries for Food and Fun"   A journey you can use in your own garden.

updated 01/16/2017

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