Growing Asian Pears

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Ripe Asian pears, also called Nashi pears or apple-pears

Of all the tree fruits we grow, my favourites are the Asian pears. The small trees top out at only 12 to 20 feet (3-6 m) tall, making them easy to maintain. Plus, they always make a good crop. Sometimes called Nashi pears or apple-pears, crisp and juicy Asian pears are delicious fresh, and even better when dried into sweet, chewy morsels.

Native to China, Korea and Japan, Pyrus pyrifolia is hardy to -10°F/-23°C (about the same as Bartlett pears) but the trees have low winter chill requirements (500 hours, typical of US Zone 8). Trees start bearing about four years after planting and keep producing for at least 20 years.

Though they bloom early, Asian pears hold their fruit through late frosts

Planting Asian Pears

Growing Asian pears is easy if you have a sunny, well drained site with a slightly acidic soil pH around 6.5. The trees are partially self-fertile and some varieties can share pollen with European pears, but it is still best to plant two Asian pear trees to enhance the performance of pollinating insects, who dive deep into the white blossoms to fertilise them.

Asian pear varieties vary in their growth habits, which can be spreading or upright. The spreading ones are easiest to manage, but fruit quality may be better with upright growers. Resistance to the common disease called fire blight is important in my climate, and many cultivars have this talent, including ‘Shinko’, ‘Kikusui’, ‘Korean Giant’, ‘Shin Li’, ‘Yoinashi’, and others. If necessary, use wire fencing to protect young and old trees from unwanted browsing by deer.

Before and after thinning of precocious Asian pears

Caring for Asian Pear Trees

In later winter we prune the trees to take out broken branches and sprouts, removing up to 20 percent of the total mass of the tree. Our goal is to keep the spreading branches open to good light. Because Asian pear trees are naturally small, the job goes quickly.

Fruit thinning is often required when growing Asian pears, too. In some years the trees set so much fruit that the green fruit clusters must be thinned to prevent complications of over-producing – broken branches, small fruit, and reduced crops the following year. We use small scissors to clip out all but the two or three biggest green fruits in every cluster we can reach. It’s a slow, methodical process, rather like weeding, but once it’s done the benefits go on all season. Once Asian pear trees pass their prime years, they set less fruit and need less thinning.

The same codling moths that bother apples can damage Asian pears. Use pheromone-baited sticky traps to reduce populations of this damaging pest.

Dried Asian pears are chewy and delicious

Harvesting and Storing Asian Pears

Asian pear trees hold their fruit until completely ripe in mid to late autumn, depending on variety. When wind knocks a few fruits to the ground, I start testing for ripeness by rocking fruits back and forth in my hand. Those that break off naturally are ripe. Asian pears bruise easily, so I handle them like eggs while gathering and cleaning them. The ripe fruits must be stored in the refrigerator, or they will deteriorate quickly.

A tree’s worth of fruits will overrun a fridge, though it’s easy to make good trades with this gourmet fruit (I have a standing trade offer with a friend who makes superb goat's cheese). Still, there are extras. Of the many methods I’ve tried for preserving Asian pears, I like drying best. A quick run through the dehydrator concentrates the sugars in Asian pear slices while causing the crisp flesh to change to leathery. The result is a delicious dried fruit to eat out of hand or add to hot cooked cereals. Cut into small tidbits, dried Asian pear can be substituted for raisins in most recipes.

Asian pears have been grown in China for 2,000 years, and have been treasured in Japan since the 8th Century. Maybe it’s time you tried growing Asian pears, too.

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Show Comments


"When our Asian pears come close to ripening time. They are not sweet. What can I add to the soil to make them sweet. Thank you Mary"
Mary on Sunday 28 April 2019
"I would like to see responses to this question also. Does it have to do with amount of watering?"
Helen on Tuesday 24 September 2019
"When I was a child, we had a large Asian pear tree near our house. Growing up in eastern Kentucky, our family grew up surrounded by fruit trees. We called the Asian pears Buckeye pears, since they resembled the fruit of Buckeye trees. To preserve them for winter, we would pick them while they were hard, and wrap them in newspaper. Then we would put them in cardboard boxes, and store them under our beds. When winter came, we would have soft juicy pears to eat. We did the same with apples. No one does this nowadays. I do take my kids out in the fall and gather black walnuts that we store in our basement to eat later. I miss those simple days of my childhood "
Jimmy Lewis on Tuesday 24 September 2019
"My tree was a surprise find in our forest backyard. It starts with a bunch of fruit but nearly all the fruit disappears by early September. This year there were only 3 medium sized pears available to pick. I assume the squirrels eat the young fruits as there are no fruits on the ground."
Stephanie Barnes on Saturday 28 September 2019
"how is the market value for asian pears in south africa"
divine on Sunday 10 May 2020
"I have several 4-5 year old asian pear tree varieties in zone 6. I have found that it's important to make sure they are watered regularly. With the hot summer this year I am getting fruit cracking. Also, the frost in the spring got to some of the fruits."
George on Monday 10 August 2020
"8/19/20 east tennessee. 2 trees. 4th year. laden w/ fruit... i wait for the pears to fall off, i havent "picked" any... but, the branches are allllllllll bent down to the ground, one branch has broken. once the pears are done/gone, i will inquire into "pruning" the trees properly."
m. lindy on Thursday 20 August 2020
"This is my first harvest. I bought my home 3 years ago and there was a strange tree with little look like Granny Smith apples at first, my question is since I’m new at this. How big do they get? Apple size? Smaller? Also we bought the house three years ago and when we moved in and had already had fruit on it and then a year went past it didn’t do anything and now this year it’s exploding with them? Is that normal they don’t usually bear fruit every year or do they? Thank you"
Dawn on Wednesday 21 July 2021
"My pears taste good, and the tree produced many. But inside, rather than having a few defined seeds, it looks kind of like coffee grounds. What causes this, and are they still safe to eat? Thank you to anyone who may know. "
Elizabeth on Sunday 5 September 2021

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