Pears are always a popular fruit for their versatility. Besides being delicious ‘naked’, in your hand or on the plate, they are a terrific addition to savory and sweet salads, they create numerous simple dessert options and they can be canned, frozen or turned into jam. A single tree will give 12 to 15 bushels of fruit in just a few years and none of that will be wasted with all the terrific options available.
Pears are particularly welcome in fall and winter, so when choosing a variety to grow a late harvest is especially useful. A pear that will store well and last into the winter is a great choice too. Since pears are subject to a lethal disease called fire-blight it is very important to grow a variety that is resistant to this disease, especially if you live in a region with damp and humid springs, which encourages its spread. When you plant a fruit tree you don’t want to have to wait years and years to see a harvest. Finally, if your garden and family is small you may not want to grow two varieties, which is often a need to ensure that fruit is produced. This is a long list of needs, but one tree, the Kieffer Pear tree, satisfies them all. It is the perfect tree when just one tree is needed and it will grow right across the country, from hot, humid states, to cold regions with minus 200 winters.
The Kieffer Pear tree is hardy from zone 4 to zone 9, so it can be grown almost everywhere in America. It forms a small tree to around 15 feet and should be grown in a sunny, sheltered location or trained against a sunny wall, which is a great way to grow this tree in colder regions. It prefers a well-drained, slightly sandy soil, but if your soil is heavy with a lot of clay it can be improved by digging plenty of rich organic material into it before planting.
In recent years there has been a lot of interest in the Asian pear, Pyrus pyrifolia, which has been grown for many years in China, Japan and Korea. These are typically round and apple-like with a juicy crunch quite different from the softness of a European pear, Pyrus communis. They are often seen in supermarkets at high prices, and Asian pears are also known for their cold-hardiness and resistance to disease. They were originally grown in America for many, many years as ornamental trees.
In 1812 a French gardener came to America and started a nursery in Roxborough, Philadelphia. In 1873 he found a chance seedling pear tree growing in his garden which turned out to be a cross between an Asian pear, the sand pear, Pyrus pyrifolia, and a Bartlett Pear, both of which he grew in his nursery. The Barlett Pear is an English variety first mentioned around 1770, and called ‘Williams’ Bon Chrétien’ (Which translates as ‘William’s Good Christian’. For that reason, outside America and Canada it is commonly called Williams.) The French gardener’s name was Peter Kieffer and he is the ‘father’ of the heirloom Kieffer Pear tree. This pear has the hardiness and disease-resistance of an Asian pear, but it is shaped like a European pear and has a taste and texture in between the two. Many people love the slightly crunchy texture of the Kieffer pear, and in salads and cooking this pear really comes alive. It is the perfect texture and it does not fall apart when cooked.
You can see that the Kieffer Pear is a special tree and so it must be reproduced the correct way. Our trees are grown the right way, by grafting stems of correctly-identified trees onto sturdy roots that control the size of the tree. Avoid cheaper seedling trees that will not have the right qualities and will only be a disappointment.
Once your tree is planted, put organic mulch over the root zone and renew it every spring, spreading it further out as the tree grows. Do not put the mulch against the trunk of your tree and do not let weeds or grass grow over the root-zone. Water your new tree well each week for the first growing season and after that whenever the soil becomes dry.
Pear trees do not need a lot of complicated pruning. While the tree is young spread out the branches to about 600 by using strings attached to rocks to pull the branches down. This will make a strong framework for your tree and keep it open in shape. Once your tree is more mature, you can begin to prune it by shortening-back the shoots and removing any soft stems that sprout from older branches. Keep the centre of your tree open so the sun can reach to the center. When your pears are developing, reduce the number if necessary to one or perhaps two in each cluster. Otherwise you will get a crop of very tiny pears. Pick the pears when still firm, but after they turn yellow. Store them in a cool place at 60-70 degrees, to finish ripening. Tree-ripening will allow parts of the fruit to rot
Our Kiefer Pear trees are true to the original features of this heirloom variety and we regularly receive new stock so that we can ship the best to our customers. However, this popular variety can be in short supply, so order now to avoid disappointment.