By Erik Simpson
Larry and Laura have successfully grown, the first known edible pear in Alaska—and it happened this year!!! This is apparently a Patten pear tree which produced pears this past year in their yard in Anchorage, near Arctic Boulevard and International Airport Road.
The tree is planted in a location with a southern exposure and it is protected from the wind. Although the tree has never suffered any winter-kill, last winter a moose ate a fair portion out of the top of the pear tree. However, this last spring the tree grew back vigorously to about nine and one-half (9 1/2) feet tall. There were about 75 blossoms on the tree this year, but a May windstorm blew off about half of the blossoms before they could set fruit.
On October 12, 1991, Laura contacted me, as a representative of the Alaska Pioneer Fruit Growers, in an attempt to identify the pear and determine how to ripen the fruit which was still on the tree at that time. I was able to ripen one of the pears at room temperature by placing it in a plastic bag with two ripening bananas for seven days. The pear was three (3) inches tall and about one and three-quarters (1¾) inches wide with a pear/fig shape. The fruit was green speckled in color with a red blush. The pear had a long neck and rounded bottom, which prevented it from standing upright.
We tasted the pear at a Board meeting held on October 21, 1991. It had a creamy, buttery flavor with no apparent grit cells. The fruit was a little dry and a little coarse because it had not fully ripened This is the first edible pear known to have ripened in Alaska! We rated the pear at about a seven (7) to eight (8) on a scale of 10, and I would definitely recommend it! It should be picked when full-size, one (1) week before it’s ripe.
This pear tree is at least nine (9) years old and is believed to have been purchased from Alaska Greenhouses, in Anchorage. Other pears sold by them at about the same time were the Clapp’s Favorite and Luscious pears. It is entirely possible that there are other edible pears being grown in Alaska that we do not know about. The Ussurian pear (Pyrus ussuriensis) has produced pears in Fairbanks and Anchorage for more than 20 years, but the fruit is not edible. Parker pears, were grown in Homer this year by Delmore Schmidt however, they did not ripen–maybe next year. Clair Lammers and other fruit growers are also successfully growing Parker pear trees in Fairbanks which may soon produce edible pears. I have an Arganche pear that has survived in Anchorage for three (3) winters with no winter-kill. I believe that the Ubileen, Ure, and Giffard are also definitely worth trying.