By Bob Purvis
While visiting the Saanichton Plant Quarantine Station on Vancouver Island, B.C., September 10, 1990, I tasted some of the hardy pear varieties recommended in times past to members of the Alaska NAFEX. Because Whitney’s 0 & N has been propagating these for Alaska NAFEX members, I was anxious to see what f could learn about their flavor and ripening times.
I found every ‘Ure’ pear but one was on the ground. The windfalls were a bit overripe, relatively small (2 to 2-1/2 inches in diameter) and nearly round, with a tawny, yellowish-brown skin. The flavor was good; there was no astringency associated with it. The texture was smooth, the skin thin and tender on the fruits I tried. The Morden, Manitoba Research Station introduced this cross of Pyrus ussuriensis x Purus communis in 1978 and named it after Frank Ure, a Canadian pear breeder.
In looking through four nursery catalogs 1 found the following information about Ure. The tree is a natural semi-dwarf, fireblight resistant, and extremely hardy. Clair Lamrners reported good survival of -46F by his ‘Ure’ in Fairbanks the winter of 1989-90. The fruit is said to keep for up to 6 weeks, and to be excellent for both fresh eating and canning. According to Dan Thompson, the ‘Ure’ pears at the quarantine station were ripe during the last week of August. Other hardy fruits typically ripen at the station about 4 weeks before they do in Anchorage, so this suggests that ‘Ure’ should ripen the last week of September in Anchorage.
‘Ure’ also makes a very ornamental tree. Its leaves, glossy dark green in summer, turn brilliant shades of red and purple in autumn. My own tree of ‘Ure’ did this about October 25 here in Pullman, defoliating two weeks before the Nova, Hudar, or Tyson pear trees in our yard. Purchased as a one- year-old tree from St. Lawrence Nurseries in 1987, my ‘Ure’ is now five feet tall and added about 7 inches of new growth to each terminal this past summer, after I planted it in April 1990.
‘Pioneer #3’ is, according to Bart Hall-Beyeris Ecological Fruit Production in the North, the second-best pear of those hardy in Canadian Zone 3, after ‘Ure’. 1 found that on Sept. 10, ‘Pioneer #3’ was fairly sweet at the Saanichton station, but the flesh was reek-hard to bite into. There were few windfalls on the ground also. This suggests that ‘Pioneer #3’, though hardy, may not ripen fully in Anchorage. Of course, like most pears it can and should picked slightly green and ripened indoors. The firm flesh may make it good for canning, but i have seen no comments in Canadian catalogs about it. It is slightly larger than ‘Ure’, about 2-1/2 to 3 inches in diameter based on what I saw.
“Gifford” is a pear which the Quarantine Station obtained from Vineland, Ontario. The National Clonal Germplasm Repository at Corvallis, OR lists both “Gifford” and ‘Beurre Giffard’ in its holdings. “Gifford” is the only cultivar at Saanichton, however. There were no windfalls on the ground nor any fruit on the tree; the fruit had ripened at least three weeks earlier, according to Dan Thompson. This is the same cultivar I grafted to a Pyrus communis rootstock in April, 1988 and which withstood -34F in January 1989, and of which Whitney’s 0 & N has some healthy 5-6 foot trees available. It appears promising for Southcentral Alaska. I hope soon to have further information from Dan Thompson on the background of “Gifford”. From all indications, it should ripen in mid-September in Anchorage.
In January 1988, I acquisition wood of two edible-fruited Ussurian pears, 1912-238 and 942-358, from the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, IL. These two pears both fruited in the Whitneys’ orchard this summer. As of September 11, neither one was ripe enough to eat. I brought some home and found after they ripened that neither one was nearly as tasty as a ‘Ure’. The skin was thick and tough, the flesh somewhat gritty, coarse, and astringent, in light of the relatively poor quality and late ripening time, these appear unpromising for Alaska.
‘Ure’, “Surnmercrisp”, and “Nova” appear to be the best cultivars to try in Fairbanks. These, along with ‘Gifford’, ‘Hudar’, and ‘Stacey’ also are worth planting in Anchorage and points south.
American sources of the above are Moosebell Flower, Fruit, & Tree Co., Rt. 1, Box 240; St. Francis, ME 04774 (Ure); Fedco Trees, 52 Mayflower Hill Drive, Waterville, ME 04901 (Ure, Surnmercrisp); Swedburg Nursery, Box 418, Battle Lake, MN 56515 (Ure, Surnmercrisp); St. Lawrence Nurseries, R.D. 2, Potsdam NY 13676 (Nova, Hudar, Surnmercrisp, Stacey); and Whitney’s 0 & N, 8421 Naches Heights Road, Cowiche, WA 98928 (Ure, Summercrisp, Pioneer #3, Gifford).
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