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Food from the Orchard – Pears

September 15, 2011

It was a bad year for my small orchard. I have two peach trees, two plum trees, a nectarine tree, a fig tree, a Hunza apricot tree, and two pear trees. A late freeze and a very hot and dry summer meant no peaches, no plums, no nectarines, no figs, and no apricots. But my good old reliable pear trees paid off.

I planted two Keifer pear trees about 20 years ago, and they are virtually indestructible. The reason I bought them originally was because I read that they are very resistant to fire blight. Fire blight is a disease that causes all of the leaves on the pear tree to turn black. Untreated fire blight will kill most pear trees, but my Keifer pears shake it off like nothing more than a head cold. I have pruned and sometimes failed to prune these trees. I have not fertilized them but once or twice. I have never sprayed them with any type of insecticide. This year it was horribly dry but I couldn’t water them for fear of running my well dry. And still they bore pears. Admittedly, the pears weren’t as big as usual, but there were probably a hundred of them on the trees. I gave pears to friends and family and still had more left than I will use.

Keifer pears can be used straight off the tree to make pear preserves, but if you want to slice and eat them, you need to sit them up in the window for a week or two and let them mellow. The only real problem with Keifer pears is that they only produce a good crop every other year. On the off years they may only produce a dozen pears between both trees. But every other year they get so loaded that you have to pick some to keep the limbs from breaking. If you don’t have the greenest of thumbs, Keifer pears are the way to go.

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