Dana’s Big Gardening Adventure: Meet the new pears!

October 3, 2008

Meet three newly developed Ontario pear varieties. For the next few years they will be sold in small quantities at farmers’ markets so do look for them there. Once production increases, widespread grocery store distribution will be possible but that won’t be until 2014 or so. It sounds like a long time but not nearly as long as it took for them to be chosen as viable commercial crops.

Through natural breeding techniques, these three new pear varieties were developed to be not only resistant to fire blight and other diseases but also winter hardy so that they can flourish in the harsh Canadian climate. According to Ken Slingerland, a pear specialist who works to develop new pear varieties, it took more than 10,000 attempts over 30 years to come up with these 3 commercially viable pears.

At a media event held last week in Toronto, Ken told me that over the next two years 50,000 new trees will be planted by Ontario pear farmers so that we can eat locally grown pears well into December.

I took home one of each of these new varieties so that I can have a taste of the future. So far I’ve tried the Harrow Crisp (the little one in the centre of the picture above) and it is very sweet and delicious. The other two new varieties are Harovin Sundown (left) and the not yet marketer named HW620 (at right).  I’m still waiting for these two pears to ripen but if my Harrow Crisp experience is any indicator, I think they will be delicious, too!

How can you get your hands on these new pears?  You can haunt farmers’ markets in the Niagara region or, next spring, look for tree stock at garden centres and plant a couple of these trees in your backyard (note: when planting pears you always need at least two trees so that they can cross pollinate).  If that sounds like too much effort, then look for Ontario Bartletts, Anjou and Bosc pears in the grocery store. They are still a fabulous local choice and this year, instead of sending much of the fresh crop to be canned, growers have made a deal with grocery stores to deliver these fresh, local pears throughout November.

What’s your favourite way to enjoy pears?  I love them eaten out of hand or baked in a pear upside down gingerbread cake. Yum!