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Pear Harvest

Posted Dec. 1, 2008

Autumn always reminds me of a particular childhood experience. It was a cold, crisp evening with a full moon - just enough light to see where you're going without a flashlight. The temperature was typical for nights during the fall and an indication that winter would soon follow. For young "wannabe" horticulturists in East Texas, it was time to bring pillowcases to accomplish the task at hand. The weather was cold enough to deter the insects (bees, wasps and beetles) that would normally be active when harvesting pears by hand. Our mission was to harvest pears under the cloak of night without proper clearance from the landowner. The fact that he had neglected to save the fruit before the upcoming winter freeze provided some justification in our young minds.

Pears come in many sizes and shapes. The oriental pears Kiefer and Orient were commonly grown around my eastern Texas hometown of Texarkana. Both varieties harvest easily because of poor limb growth and heavy production. The rough texture and hard fruit meant less damage to the pears when placed in pillowcases and subjected to a speedy bicycle getaway.

The texture of a pear indicates that the pear has a high content of "grit cells." These are the crystals that we experience inside the fruit when eating a pear. The ideal end use for this fruit would be cooking. Other pear varieties include the European varieties such as Bartlett, Moonglow and D'Anjou. These are more susceptible to fire blight, which looks like a blow torch has scorched the newly produced growth. And then there are Asian pears, also called apple pears. They are sweeter and shaped like apples. Some of the more popular varieties of these commercially grown pears are 20th Century, Chojuro and Shinko. We can grow pears like these in southern Oklahoma and northern Texas, and have a decent market price.

Whatever fruit variety one chooses to produce in a commercial setting, an enterprise should always be looked at from the marketing side as well as the growing side. Be sure to include the costs of harvest labor and transportation required to get the fruit to market.

You probably will never see night marauders - these guys generally move by the light of the moon when the temperature begins to drop. Even if you spot them, it is somewhat difficult to catch a determined bicycle rider at night when you are on foot!