Joseph Postman selects 18 extraordinary pear cultivars from the national collection.
Pear trees growing at the repository In spring (inset) and fall. As unique and individually colorful as are the fruit midseason.
As curator of the nation’s largest collection of pear cultivars, Joseph Postman is often asked, “What’s your favorite pear?”
Since his job is to organize information about pears and their characteristics, it seemed logical to create a category called “the curator’s choice.”
There are 18 varieties on Postman’s list, “just a few of my favorites,” he said, and he lists them in alphabetical order:
Aurora—A delicious and attractive fall pear with a Bartlett parent. Skin bright yellow, slightly russeted, sometimes blushed, very attractive; flesh melting, smooth, juicy, sweet, aromatic, high quality for dessert purposes; longer storage and shelf life than Bartlett; ripens with or just after.
Ayers—Small but beautiful, high quality, early season. Attractive red blush and very juicy. Skin golden russet with a rose tint, flesh juicy, sweet; good for eating fresh and average for canning; first picking in mid-August. Tree resistant to fireblight.
Bartlett–Nye Russet—The fully russeted fruit is attractive, less prone to blemishes than green Bartlett with slightly more intense flavor. Bud mutation of Bartlett. Skin deep yellow overlaid with a very attractive smooth light golden russet; resembles Bartlett, but ripens one week later, firmer, somewhat more spicy.
Beurré Superfin—“Bunyard called it ‘one of the best half-dozen pears,’ and I heartily agree,” Postman said.
Medium to large in size, roundish-obovate with pointed neck and fleshy stem. Skin smooth, greenish-yellow in color, occasionally blushed. Flesh very fine, extremely juicy, quite free of grit, melting. Sweet with acidulous or vinous spicy flavor, rates among the best in dessert quality.
Probably too soft to withstand commercial handling. Midseason.
Butirra Rosata Morettini—A gorgeous early fall pear. Large; skin yellow with bright red blush; flesh white, juicy, flavor excellent; ripens six to seven days before Bartlett. Tree very vigorous; self-incompatible and considerably parthenocarpic; scarcely compatible with quince rootstock; peduncle thick and short; susceptible to fireblight.
Dana Hovey—A favorite of Joanie Cooper, president of the Home Orchard Society. Named in honor of C.M. Hovey, author of The Fruits of America. The flavor is like Winter Nelis. Thought to be a seedling of Seckel, fruit resembles Seckel in size, form, and flavor. Skin greenish-yellow at maturity, russeted, not blushed. Flesh somewhat granular but buttery and very juicy. Keeps longer than Seckel and holds up well after ripening.
Devoe—Pretty enough to pose for a still life, creamy flavor with a hint of vanilla. Thought to be a seedling of Clapp Favorite. Fruit elongated similar to Bosc, coloring similar to Clapp Favorite; attractive bright red spotted blush. Flesh soft, fine, buttery, tender, melting, white to yellow, subacid. Harvests in mid-September, about two weeks after Bartlett. Tree vigorous; tolerant to fireblight and pear psylla, susceptible to scab.
Doyenne du Comice—A large, juicy, ripe Comice is best eaten with a spoon. Regarded by many as the standard of dessert quality among pears. Medium to large, sometimes very large. Skin fairly thick, granular, susceptible to blemishes, sometimes russeted, greenish-yellow, often blushed. Flesh very fine, melting, extremely juicy, quite free of grit. Sweet, rich, aromatic, vinous flavor. Midseason. Tree large, stately, vigorous, but slow in coming into bearing. Semidwarf on quince, moderately susceptible to fireblight. A temperamental variety that reaches perfection only under limited conditions of soil, climate, and location.
Hosui—“My favorite Asian pear, sweet, crisp and juicy,” Postman said. The russeted skin resists blemishes. Large, globose to oblate fruit; skin russeted, golden to gold-brown, enlarged lenticels; flesh off-white, mild; ripe mid-August to September in Oregon; stores four weeks.
Johantorp—A very late ripening and cold-hardy pear widely grown in Sweden for winter storage. Hangs on the tree into the winter. “In a mild Corvallis winter, we can enjoy them directly off the tree in late December,” Postman said.
Klementinka—A small, crunchy, early season pear (mid-July) that ripens on the tree. This Bulgarian variety of unknown parentage is indistinguishable from Turkey’s Mustafabey, Macedonia’s Arganche, and Romania’s Zaharoasa de Vara. Small like Seckel, yellow with red blush and no russet; flesh fine-textured, sweet, juicy, firm. Tree naturally compact, easily managed, consistently productive, resistant to scab.
Leopardo Morettini—“Flavor is an important characteristic of any pear released in Italy, and this is no exception,” Postman said. Medium size, interesting netlike russet, fine, buttery texture, flavor similar to Beurré Superfin.
Onward—Nearly as good as its parent Doyenne du Comice. Short pyriform to round conic; skin light green becoming yellow-green, often with pink blush; russeted at the stem and eye. Flesh creamy white, melting, very fine, juicy, sweet rich flavor with balancing acidity. Tree easier to grow and often more productive than Comice.
Rousselet de Reims—Said to have been the favorite pear of France’s King Louis XIV. An ancient variety believed to date back to the beginning of the Christian era. Small, roundish, somewhat irregular shape. Skin greenish-yellow, blushed with dull red on sunny side, sprinkled with gray russet dots. Flesh white, semifine, buttery but not melting; moderately juicy. Extremely sweet, aromatic, spicy flavor. A little later than Bartlett. Susceptible to core breakdown. Tree very vigorous, spreading and willowy in habit, almost standard size on quince, productive.
Rousselet of Stuttgart x Dr. Jules Guyot No. VII—Attractive rainbow-trout colored, crunchy pear that ripens nicely on the tree. Five selections of the cross Rousselet Shtutgartskii x Dr. J. Gujo were received in 1968 from the USSR Vavilov Institute in Leningrad. All five selections have crunchy, attractive, pyriform-shaped fruit that ripen in August and September. Selection VII is the most attractive, with red blushed and speckled fruit similar in coloring to Forelle. Tree is disease resistant and cold hardy. The repository staff suggests the name ‘Vavilov’ for this unnamed pear selection, in honor of the famous Russian botanist.
Seckel—One of the best pears born in America and the most requested variety at the USDA gene bank. A chance seedling found in the outskirts of Philadelphia by Dutch Jacobs, about 1760.
Small, obovate-pyriform in shape, usually symmetrical. Skin dull brownish-yellow, usually overlaid with russet and blushed dull red. Flesh somewhat granular, buttery and very juicy. Noted for sweet, aromatic, spicy flavor. Rates among the best in dessert quality. Early midseason. Tree moderately vigorous, sturdy, strong, very productive, widely adaptable, with a tendency to overbear, somewhat resistant to fireblight. Though self-fertile, it benefits from cross-pollination.
Summer Blood Birne—Of the half-dozen or so red flesh or “blood” pears, this one has larger fruit and is more scab resistant than the others.
An ancient cultivar thought to have originated in Germany. The fruit is still quite small, and not of commercial quality, but with a nice cinnamon-like flavor.
Wilder Early—An attractive early pear, ripe nearly a month before Bartlett. Medium in size, oblong-pyriform. Skin pale green, red blushed on the sunny side. Flesh buttery but not melting, moderately juicy. Aromatic, pleasing flavor but second-rate in dessert quality. Holds up better than most early pears.
Tree vigorous, thrifty, somewhat applelike in appearance, productive, moderately susceptible to fireblight. Once grown commercially in California.