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  • From: alexis <>
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  • Subject: [nafex] New Pear Variety for Self Sufficiency
  • Date: Mon, 26 Oct 2015 12:04:44 -0400

WinterSweet Pear
A Valuable New Crop for Food Self-Sufficiency



The purpose of this document is to bring to the awareness of the reader a new variety of pear tree that I believe will be useful for those seeking food self-sufficiency, or simply a much better winter storage pear. See the end of the document if you wish to acquire one or more trees.

The name of this pear tree is WinterSweet. I have been growing this tree in 3 orchards in Central Virginia for 5 years. The attributes of this tree and its fruit are as follows.

Vigor -- This is the fastest growing pear tree of any I have ever planted, often growing twice as fast as other pear trees, even in mediocre soil. In August when other pear trees have yellowed and are readying for dormancy, this tree is still dark green and growing.

Flavor -- This is the strongest flavored pear I have ever eaten. In the early ripening stage, it has a very strong tart-sweet flavor with bitter overtones. As it ripens fully, the bitterness disappears and the tartness diminishes somewhat. The ripening pattern could be comparable to (pear-flavored) Granny Smith apples -- very tart in the early ripening stage to finish with an excellent sweet-tart flavor as it ripens fully. This is a storage pear. The flavor is MUCH better then other late storage pears like Kieffer or Burford.

Sugars (Brix) -- A friend of mine has a brix tester (he's a vegetable breeder). We tested a couple of Wintersweets. The highest brix was 15.7, with an average at 15.0. That is higher than most other pears.

Ripening Time -- Late, harvest season begins in early October in Central Virginia, extending for at least several weeks.

Size -- Medium, about the size of a Bartlett.

Disease Resistance -- Some of our test orchards suffer extreme disease and insect pressure. The fruit of this pear is little bothered by insects. The tree has suffered no blight damage whatsoever after 5 years in an orchard with extreme blight pressure where other “blight resistant” pears have been killed or badly damaged. This does NOT constitute an conclusive blight resistance test.

Texture -- In the early ripening stage, the texture is poor, fibrous, sawdusty. As the fruit ripens fully, the texture improves substantially to become a crunchy, sweet, dense pear. At full ripe, it is still the densest pear I have ever eaten. The texture of this pear probably means it has little value on the grocery store shelf (where people are used to delicate “desert” pears imported from afar).

Storage Value -- Limited experimentation leads us to believe that this pear is an excellent storage pear. It is a very dense pear, which appears to help it store a long time without refrigeration. We have not done enough storage with our various varieties to make a conclusive comparison yet.

Pollination -- All of our Wintersweets are in orchards with numerous other pear trees. I have no means by which to assess if WinterSweet is self-fertile to any degree.

Further Commentary

The mother of this tree was growing on a farm that belongs to a friend of mine in Central VA. The mother of the WinterSweet Pear tree was a massive tree, probably 16 inches or more in diameter, perhaps 50 feet tall. It was in a cow pasture, and produced a prodigious quantity of pears that we made into the most amazing cider I have ever tasted. I was impressed by this late, dense, sweet fruit, and started grafting it. I prize late fruit highly. I love my Seckle Pear, but in August, life is just too full of good things for the self-sufficient farmer. The mother of WinterSweet blew over in a storm a few years ago.

I have planted WinterSweets in 3 orchards in Central Virginia. Orchard number 1 is in Charlottesville VA and suffers from extreme fireblight pressure. If you are familiar with fireblight, you know that is a /very/fickle disease that responds with extreme variability to environmental triggers (moisture and temperature, I think). A tree that shows no signs of blight for years may be devastated by the disease when circumstances change. The performance of other pear trees in regards to fireblight in orchard number 1 are as follows:

Magness -- killed to the ground.

Harvest Queen -- A Bartlett derivative that is supposed to be “much more disease resistant” than Bartlett (quoting Cummins Nursery). My Harvest Queen has produced some really delightful fruit, but it has been hammered by fireblight and appears to be in terminal decline.

Kieffer -- Badly damaged by blight. (I cut it down after a few productive years because the fruit consistently tasted like damp styrofoam).

Seckle -- Minor damage each year.

Ayers -- I have only had this tree a few years and have seen no damage yet.

Our number 2 and 3 test orchards have dozens of varieties of pears in them. The blight pressure is less extreme than the number 1 orchard (much better air movement). Some of our “blight resistant” trees have suffered at least minor damage in these orchards as well. To date Wintersweet has experienced no blight damage in our number 2 or number 3 orchards.

The reason I believe this tree is valuable from a food self-sufficiency standpoint is that the tree is so incredibly vigorous, shows no signs of disease problems, produces a prodigious quantity of very sweet fruit, produces its fruit in the fall after the peak of the annuals harvest has passed, and probably will store for a long time in a root cellar or other appropriate environment. *Winter fruit without canning is highly valuable from a food self-sufficiency standpoint. *

WinterSweet appears to be a European/ Asian cross. It has a an Asian growth pattern, with branches close together in a vertical orientation. It does not spread naturally. It has thick stems and gives the appearance of an Asian pear. The flavor however is radically different than Asian pears. I have never tasted a pear with such tartness.

I believe it would be helpful for the local food movement if this pear tree were widely disseminated, particularly for people aspiring to food self-sufficiency. WinterSweet is a dramatically better pear than other winter keepers like Burford or Keiffer, much sweeter and more flavorful. Wintersweet has a later ripening time than any of the other “desert” pears, later than any pear with which I am familiar. Given its density and late ripening, it may store later into the winter than any of the other storage pears, though I cannot make that claim based on systematic comparisons with other pears.

Plan to Disseminate

We have a limited quantity of fruit at this time. We also have an excellent solar food drying system. I am part of an organization called Living Energy Farm that is building a farm and a community that will run without fossil fuel (see I would like to propagate this tree and let the proceeds support Living Energy Farm. In the winter of 2015-2016, I will order roostock. (I teach propagation classes and get the rootstock for those classes.) I use OHxF pear rootstock. WinterSweet is the fastest growing pear of any we have planted on OHxF rootstock, which is a modern, blight-resistant rootstock. We use OHxF 333, a semi-dwarf rootstock, and OHxF 97, which produces a near full-sized tree. Our earliest WinterSweets are on 333 rootstock, and have a vertical orientation topping off at about 15 feet. I don't think they are going to get any taller. So far our WinterSweets on OHxF 97 are wider, and perhaps 20 feet tall. I don't know what the final height of a WinterSweet on OHxF 97 might be.

This winter, we are going to try to send dried samples of WinterSweet to as many people as we can (at no charge). We are going to propagate trees based on the number of people who say they are interested in purchasing trees shipped to them in winter 2016-2017 (about a year from now). If you want a tree, let us know now. Asking for a tree now will NOT commit you to buying one a year from now. We will ask for payment then, and you can decline at that time if you choose. But I don't want to propagate a lot of trees unless there is sufficient interest. Final cost will depend on what we can figure our for shipping. I would estimate something in the range of $30 - $40 for one tree, and an additional $25 for each additional tree.

I will probably not disseminate scion wood this year as supply is limited. Please let me know if you would like to make buy a WinterSweet next winter. Please let me know if you want a free sample (small) of the dried fruit. We will be sending these samples to a LIMITED number of people. Please send an email with WinterSweet in the subject line to tradelocally (that email symbol) to indicate your interests.


Alexis Zeigler

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