Very Important Plant
The popularity of pears is generally overshadowed by that of apples, yet it’ss a fruit steeped in history with a diversity of varieties. The wild pear, Pyrus communis, comes from central Europe, the Mediterranean through to Asia, and has been in cultivation for thousands of years.
Thehe pear we know in England is probably a complex hybrid from a number of related species and selections, the origins lost in the mists of time. Pears were cultivated by the Romans, who ate them both unripe and ripe. They were extensively grown in France and Belgium, where many varieties were bred, including ‘Williams’Williams’ Bon Chrétien’, or Bartlett pear, the most widely-growngrown variety in the world, especially in the USA.
In the UK there are a number of historical pear types, the perry pears found in Somerset, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire, the juice from which is fermented to produce the drink perry, which in recent years has become popular once again. Then there are the hard ‘Warden’ or ‘Worcester Black’ pears, which are mahogany in tone. They can be stored for six months or more and were traditionally used in Elizabethan times for cooking rather than eating.
Although normally large, long-lived trees on their own roots, pear varieties grafted on dwarfing rootstocks, normally quince, will remain smaller, so are ideal for most gardens.