You may have never heard of Asian pears, but once you've tasted one, you'll want your own tree so you can have all the fruit you can eat. Asian pears are also known as "apple pears" because they're round and firm like apples. The crunchy fruit is wonderful fresh. Chilling it before eating enhances the delicious flavor. You can also enjoy the texture in salads and stir-fries.
Trees can grow up to 25 feet tall, but you can prune in late winter to keep them to a more manageable size. They also can be trained as espaliers against walls or onto wire trellises. Feed your pear trees with a fertilizer such as Ferti-lome Fruit, Citrus and Pecan Tree Food.
For better fruiting, plant two or more different selections. Asian pears are susceptible to fire blight. Choose resistant selections such as 'Hosui' (golden brown, medium-to-large fruit ripens from mid-July to early August and has moderate fire blight resistance), 'Shinko' (brown, medium-to-large fruit ripens from late July to mid-August and has high fire blight resistance), 'Korean Giant' (brownish olive green fruit is large to very large, can weigh up to a pound, ripens from late August to mid- to late-September, and has high fire blight resistance).
Thin the fruit when it's between the size of a nickel and a quarter, leaving a 4- to 6-inch space between pears. Unlike soft European pears, firm Asian ones should be left on the tree to ripen before picking. Fruit can last three to four months if stored in the crisper of the refrigerator.
If you don't have room for Asian pear trees in your yard but want to try the fruit, visit your local farmers' market, or order gift boxes online from Virginia Gold Orchard; virginiagoldorchard.com.