The History of the Pear
History and information about the fruit we use in our jams, preserves and fruit spreads
Pears are one of the world's oldest cultivated and beloved fruits. In 5,000 B.C., Feng Li, a Chinese diplomat, abandoned his responsibilities when he became consumed by grafting peaches, almonds, persimmons, pears and apples as a commercial venture. In The Odyssey, the Greek poet laureate Homer lauds pears as a "gift of the gods." Pomona, goddess of fruit, was a cherished member of the Roman Pantheon and Roman farmers documented extensive pear growing and grafting techniques. Thanks to their versatility and long storage life, pears were a valuable and much-desired commodity among the trading routes of the ancient world. Evident in the works of Renaissance Masters, pears have long been an elegant still-life muse for artists. In the 17th century a great flourishing of modern pear variety cultivation began taking place in Europe. And in popular culture, the pear tree was immortalized alongside a partridge in the 18th-century Christmas carol, The Twelve Days of Christmas.
Early colonists brought the first pear trees to America's eastern settlements where they thrived until crop blights proved too severe to sustain widespread cultivation. Fortunately, the pear trees brought west to Oregon and Washington by pioneers in the 1800's thrived in the unique agricultural conditions found in the Pacific Northwest. Today's Northwest pear varieties are the same or similar to those first cultivated in France and Belgium where they were prized for their delicate flavor, buttery texture, and long storage life.
As more sophisticated irrigation and growing techniques developed during the past century, pear orchards flourished dramatically in the Northwest's river valley regions located in a serpentine sprawl from Northern Central Washington to Central Southern Oregon.
Today, pear orchards in Oregon and Washington are as specialized as the regions that support them. Organic, commercial and multi-generation family orchards all contribute high-quality fruit to the Northwest's fresh pear industry. Consumer interest and enjoyment of Northwest pears grows each year. Thanks to advancements in Controlled Atmosphere (CA) storage technology, fresh USA Pears are available to consumers nearly year-round.
The Northwest is the only geographic region in the United States to possess the necessary combination of climatic and geographic settings needed to produce the high-quality, delicious pears grown in Oregon and Washington. The blend of rich volcanic soil, abundant water, warm days and cool nights creates ideal growing conditions for the pear varieties found in the Northwest.
The Mid-Columbia/Hood River Area is a rich pear growing region that stretches along both the Oregon and Washington banks of the Columbia River. Here, thousands of acres of USA Pears flourish under the snowcapped peaks of Mt. Adams and Mt. Hood, two volcanoes of the Cascade Volcano Range.