Continuing the series of articles on our selection of orchard fruits for planting this winter, this article looks at our pear collection. Within the kitchen garden we have nine cordon trained pears: Doyenne d’Ete, Louise Bonne of Jersey, Duchess of Angouleme, Beurre Diel, Easter Beurre, Beurre Hardy, Marie Louise, Bonchrétien d’Hiver, Doyenne Blanc. These cover much of the season, from the earliest summer pear to late winter sorts, but in relatively small quantities. In the orchard, I wanted to add three full size pear trees to the collection.
Whilst I found it fairly easy to shortlist apple varieties, I have struggled somewhat with the pears. Reading through the old books provides a long list of fine sounding candidates, but with rather little basis on which to whittle them down. One criterion was, naturally, to spread the harvest, in particular with one or two good winter pears. Generally, apples seem to offer better prospects for keeping for long periods. However, some pears can be stored well – we already have a couple of late sorts such as the Bonchrétien d’Hiver and the aptly named Easter Beurre amongst our cordons. For the orchard, two candidates came to mind for a good winter sort: Winter Nelis and Josephine de Malines, either of which would appear to be a good choice. I opted for the Winter Nelis, which Robert Hogg, author of the famous fruit manual, describes as “one of the richest flavoured pears”.
For an earlier ripening pear, in use in September and October, I selected Fondante d’Automne, a variety that came recommended from various sources, but does not seem to be so widely grown. Hogg described this as “a delicious autumn pear” and said of the flesh “white, very tender, fine-grained, and melting, very juicy, sugary, and aromatic”. It certainly sounds delicious.
Following on from the Fondante d’Automne is Beurre d’Anjou. Although no longer grown in this country to any great extent, this appears to be a significant commercial cultivar in the USA. It was rather difficult to pin down the season of use for Beurre d’Anjou, with some sources suggesting an autumn pear and others a late storing sort, thus the indication below is very tenuous. Time will tell whether or not I have made a good selection of pears for the orchard, and when exactly Beurre d’Anjou is in good condition for the dessert. Unlike our apple selection, we have no problems with pollination with the selected pears.
Fondante d’Automne – pollination group D – in use September and October
Beurre d’Anjou – pollination group C – in use October to January
Winter Nelis – pollination group D – in use from November to February
Fruit identification images are reproduced with permission from the National Fruit Collection, www.nationalfruitcollection.org.uk.