The pear is any of several tree and shrub species of genus Pyrus, in the family Rosaceae. It is also the name of the pomaceous fruit of these trees.
Originating from the coastal and mildly temperate regions of the Old World (Western Europe, North Arica and across Asia), this tree can be traced back over 7000 years. The oldest living pear tree south of the Sahara can be found in The Company Gardens in Cape Town. Pears from this variety, Winter Saffron, were first picked in 1665!
South African pears are mainly grown in the Western Cape and areas including Elgin, Ceres and Wolseley are particularly well known for pear production. These deciduous trees prefer a cold winter and temperate summer to produce their sweet fruit. White blossoms appear during spring followed by fruit from as early as February. Some of the edible varieties available are Packham’s Triumph, Forelle, Williams and Bon Chretien. These pears range in colour from green yellow to yellow with a pink blush and even russet, but all have a sweet, juicy flavour in common.
The most popular edible variety in South Africa is Packham’s Triumph. This is a large, green-yellow pear with conspicuous dark-green lenticels and the skin remains green, even when fully ripe. The fruit has an irregular, knobbly appearance and the flesh is creamy-white with a fine, smooth texture. It also has a long shelf life and stores well in a dark cupboard or fridge.
Pear trees are relatively maintenance free, but require some clipping to encourage the best possible harvest.