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Growing fruit trees - tales of pilfered pears and frozen apples

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Photo courtesy of Doreen Howard.

(Read caption) The 20th Century Asian pear tree was precious, bearing a year after I planted it.

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Despite hard freezes and snow in mid-October, I just finished picking the last of the apples and Asian pears in my orchard of miniature fruit trees.

And, I caught the creature that pilfered every Hosui Asian pear last year, the first season the tree fruited. I had tagged the offender ‘Slimus erectus,' figuring the thief was a neighborhood gourmet.

In 2005, I planted a 20th Century Asian pear tree that had two grafts of Hosui, a later-maturing variety that is touted to be the best-tasting Asian pear. The main tree bore a light crop of 20th Century pears the next year, and in subsequent years bore larger and larger crops. The grafts grew into substantial limbs, but never flowered.

Finally, in late April 2008, the Hosui branches flowered and set fruit.

I anxiously waited for ripe Hosui, given everything I’d read about the variety. 20th Century is crunchy and tasty, but Hosui was supposed to be crunchier, keep longer, and have a more pronounced flavor.

Fruits put on good size by August and started to develop russet on their skins. They weren’t ripe when I harvested the yellow, juicy 20th Century pears in late August.

Labor Day came and went, and the pears were hard with a greenish cast. I had to go to Portland, Ore., on a business trip the third week of September, and the pears were still not ripe.

I got home late in the afternoon of Sept. 23 and immediately ran out to the pear tree to check for ripeness. Every pear was gone!

Their stems were freshly snapped, as fluid oozed from where they were broken off branches. No trace remained of any pear. They were all gone!

After waiting more than four years to taste Hosui, I cried with frustration and disappointment.

Two weeks ago, as I climbed the hill to pick this year’s crop of Hosui, I watched as a flock of four-foot-high wild turkeys trotted out of the nearby woods. They surrounded the tree, pecking at pear stems. One pear was already on the ground, and a young turkey was munching it.

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