Pear revolution coming, author advises growers

Pears are set for a comeback, according to the author of a definitive guide to the fruit, The Book of Pears, which contains a directory to around 500 varieties with descriptions for identification, cultivation details and information on the pear's role as a market fruit and international commodity.

Image: HW
Image: HW

The directory is based on the National Collection in Brogdale, Kent, and the book has a companion website at Author Dr Joan Morgan wants to preserve diversity and has made a plea to professional growers not to dig up old varieties. "If I could only stop commercial fruit growers pulling any out, that would be a great achievement," said the pomologist. "They can be hard-headed."

Morgan, who previously wrote The Book of Apples, told growers: "Hang on, there is a pear revolution coming." She said new plantings on the continent and from the UK such as 40ha in Kent from AC Goatham and new technology such as Kent grower Clive Baxter's ripening room are reviving the sector. Pears are a better option for small producers to sell at farmers' markets than apples, she added.

She said difficulties with pears are the short window in which they are ripe, but the rise in popularity of avocado pears, which have the same issue, shows that should not be a barrier. "There are many more apples than pears grown but it seems to me pears can be a much more exciting fruit."

TV chef Nigel Slater has called Morgan's book the food book of the year, while BBC Radio 4's Food Programme devoted a show to the book. Morgan has been awarded the RHS Veitch Memorial Medal for contributions to the advancement of the "science and practice of horticulture".

English Apples and Pears chief executive Adrian Barlow said home-grown pears make up around 17.5 per cent of UK consumption, with the rest imported. UK production is 25,000-30,000 tonnes and has the potential to reach 100,000 tonnes.

But he added: "I don't see that materialising," because most UK orchards are old and non-intensive so do not perform well. New intensive post and wire orchards average £30,000 per hectare and most growers are not convinced of the returns, so he does not see a change in the UK market unless a pear is bred that suits the UK climate better than the continent or there is confidence that investment will produce returns.

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