The pear is an oval fruit with slightly convex sides at its base. Its skin, of varying color, evolving from green to yellow with sometimes red traces, covers a somewhat granular, very juicy flesh which contains in the center, clustered, seeds.
In virtually all western languages, the name of the pear is directly derived from the Latin Pyra. The name “apple pear” was given to the Asian pear was wrong. It is neither an apple nor the product of a cross between an apple and a pear, as it has long believed. It is indeed a pear (of the botanical genus Pyrus). It differs from its European cousin by a few features, including its shape and size.
Trees of the genus Pyrus are native to the Middle East and subalpine areas of Kashmir. Wild species are still found in Central Asia and the Far East. Their fruits are small and found in small amounts, so they are only picked by birds.
It is believed the farmers began to domesticate pear tree 7 000 years ago, probably at the same time as the apple tree. We are talking about a certain Chinese named Feng Li who, 5 000 years before our era, would have abandoned its position as a diplomat to devote himself to his new passion, the grafting of peach trees, almonds, persimmons, pear trees and apples. Two thousand years later, the pear appears on Sumerian clay tablets, alongside the thyme and figs.
Greeks would have liked it because Homer said to this fruit was a gift from the gods. But it is to the Romans which owes its true diffusion to the rest of Europe. They would have crossed it several times and would have created about fifty varieties. At present, there would be more than 15 000 varieties in the world, all derived from two species: the so-called Asian pear (Pyrus sinensis) and the so-called European pear (Pyrus communis).
In China, the flower of the pear tree is the symbol of the ephemeral character of existence, because it is very fragile.
Pear health profile
Pear accompanies both the salty and the sweet, from the appetizer to the dessert. It is an excellent source of dietary fiber and its antioxidant-rich skin, prevent cardiovascular disease and some cancers.
The benefits of pear
Cancer. A substantial intake of antioxidants, particularly present in fruits and vegetables, including pears, can reduce the risk of certain types of cancers.
Cardiovascular diseases. The peel of pears, added to a diet otherwise rich in cholesterol would reduce the increase of blood lipids and increase the concentration in antioxidants of the blood. Although these results must be verified among humans, it would appear the consumption of the whole pear, rather than only the flesh, would provide maximum antioxidants. Another study found fruit consumption would have varying effects on antioxidant capacity and blood lipids depending on whether you are a smoker or a non-smoker. In fact, the daily consumption of fruit (one pear, one apple and ¾ cup (200 ml) of orange juice), particularly increases the antioxidant capacity of non-smokers. Among smokers, researchers observed a decrease in blood lipids.
What does the pear contain?
The pear contains several phenolic compounds. Thanks to their antioxidant power, these substances present in foods of plant origin can prevent several diseases, including certain types of cancers and cardiovascular diseases. In the pear, these phenolic compounds, flavonoids and phenolic acids, are present mainly in the skin, but also in smaller quantity in the flesh of the fruit.
Pear is a high source of dietary fiber, important for the regularization of intestinal transit and the prevention of cardiovascular diseases. About two thirds of the fibers contained in the pear are insoluble fibers. The skin of the pear contains more fiber than its pulp.
More antioxidants in organic pear?
According to researchers, pears from organic farming would have higher amounts of phenolic compounds compared to pears of classical culture. The latter would still contain a significant amount. Organic culture will allow these fruits to further deploy their “antioxidant” defenses against pathogens, in the absence of pesticides. In any event, it is advisable to consume fruits and vegetables every day, whatever their type of crop, in order to benefit from their many benefits.
The pear contains sorbitol and fructose, types of sugars which can cause gastrointestinal discomfort (gas, bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea) among susceptible individuals. Individuals with irritable bowel syndrome are particularly vulnerable. Among adults, these food can be felt from 10 g of sorbitol per day (corresponding to about 2.5 medium pears). Daily consumption of 50 g or more of fructose can also cause diarrhea (equivalent to about 5 medium pears or 2 ½ cups (625 ml) of pear nectar).
Among children, consumption of pear juice as well as apple juice could be a cause of chronic idiopathic diarrhea (of unknown origin). There may also be a link between children fuss and the intolerance of pear juice. If gastrointestinal symptoms occur, it is important to check if these beverages are involved.
Oral allergy syndrome
Pear is a food responsible in oral allergy syndrome. This syndrome takes the form of an allergic reaction to certain proteins of a range of fruits, vegetables and nuts. It often affects people with allergies to environmental pollen and is almost always preceded by hay fever.
Allergic people who consume the raw pear (cooking usually degrades the allergen proteins) feel itching and burning sensations to the mouth, lips and throat. Symptoms may appear and then disappear, usually a few minutes after consuming or touching the food.
In the absence of other symptoms, this reaction is not serious and the consumption of pear does not have to be avoided systematically. However, it is recommended to consult an allergist to determine the cause of the reactions to plant foods. The latter will be able to assess whether special precautions should be taken.
Choice and conservation
A ripe pear exhales all its aromas and, at the touch, is slightly supple around the stalk. As it oxidizes easily once cut, dip the pieces or slices in a water with lemon to prevent them from browning.
Preferably, keep the fruits in the open air, on a plate where they will not be too tight. If they are firm to purchase, the pears will be kept for 3 to 15 days. If they are not too ripe, they can also be stored for several weeks in the refrigerator, in the fruit and vegetable drawer, or in the cellar.
You can also dry the pear (Romans were used to eat them dry) freeze it cooked or make jams, canned syrup, chutneys …
Lacto-fermented with vegetables, the pear is delicious. Preferably choose fruit with firm flesh.
Young trees should be planted early in the spring, in a sunny location where the soil is well drained and the ph is 6 to 6.5. Make a lime intake if the ground becomes too acidic over the years. Space trees from 4 to 5 meters in order to take into account their future expansion. Make sure the graft is 5-10 cm above the ground.
In case of drought, irrigate or water, especially young trees which, up to 5 years, have huge water requirements. Interrupt any form of watering 1 month before harvesting. Put a thick mulch at the foot of the trees. In addition to preventing evaporation, straw or dead leaves are a significant contribution of organic matter and therefore humus.
To promote growth, make 2 annual manure or compost applications at the foot of the trees, the first early in spring and the second after harvesting. Every 3 to 5 years, add rock phosphate, preferably in fall. Nitrogen fertilizers should be avoided. Although they promote growth, they increase the risk of disease and the susceptibility of young trees to winter gels, and give fruit a bland flavor. Foliar treatments based on algae, nettle manure will help to strengthen the resistance of trees, provide nutritional supplements and prevent the onset of certain diseases. Treat at least 3 times during the season, just before, during and after flowering.
To produce good size fruits and reduce the incidence of diseases and insects, it is recommended the fruit be thinned when they are the size of a cherry. One leaves 1 fruit per bunch (generally, the bunch include 6) or 1 every 15 centimeters.
The size must be light the first 2 years, because at that point, it is simply a matter of giving its shape to the tree. Make this intervention when the tree is still dormant, but once the risks of important frost have passed. Remove dead, damaged, and sick or cross branches. Remove all the greedy ones as well as the branches that grow low on the trunk and pinch the main stems to keep a small tree.
The fruit of the Asian varieties must be perfectly ripe at the time of harvest. The European varieties must be picked when it has reached its maximum size, but before its full maturity.
Disease and insect control
The first control is to choose varieties adapted to the climate in which one lives and its type of soil. Consult the nursery specialist.
Fire and bacterial canker are the two main diseases affecting the pear tree. They are both caused by humid weather, the first when temperatures are warm, the second when they are cold. Farmers have to choose resistant varieties. If, in spite of everything, the disease strikes, the branches from 30 to 36 cm under the affected parts and sterilize the tools with alcohol or water bleach between the cuts. Scab can also appear. It is treated with repeated applications of sulfur.
Application of dormancy oil (insect repellent brushed on the trunk when the tree is dormant, also called dormant oil) at the end of winter will end the majority of insects attacking the pear tree, except codling. The larvae of this budworm penetrate and develop in the tree. The damage will be limited by releasing parasite wasps 2 times in the season, in the spring to the onset of the first adults, and 2 or 3 weeks later.