The article below, from a previous post (“Wild Pears”), also gives the particulars of the Warren Pear. And good news re the Warren: we have just finished grafting some onto Provence Quince rootstock, which makes a full-dwarf tree. If the growing season is good, we’ll have some one-yr. whips of Warren ready to sell this fall.
The pear is not native to North America, but has been domesticated and naturalized from seedlings of Pyrus communis or Common Pear, a native of northern Europe. There are about 20 species of pear worldwide, but the pear in your grandfather’s pasture field is almost certainly a wild seedling of Pyrus communis. Perhaps you have sampled one of these fruits and been disappointed. Wild pears, especially those that ripen late, are often hard and and gritty.
Not every seedling is a disappointment, however. This fall we had a customer come to our place from Dungannon, Virginia bearing a sample from a wild pear growing on his farm. “I’d like you to try this and tell me what you think,” he said, “I washed it before we left.”
Of course, I figured that my fiend’s enthusiasm was probably overdone, and that I would need to be polite as I chewed thru sandpaper. But I was wrong. The pear was quite a treat, firm but not hard, sweetly flavored, if not rich. As best I can recall,the tree itself was blight resistant, and bore heavy annual crops.
This customer was especially interested in understanding the taxonomy of his seedling pear. So I told him that it was probably an escapee from cultivation, and called the Old Home Pear–which was partly true, as Old Home is another name generally applied to Pyrus communis. But to set the record straight, ‘Old Home’ trees, cultivated as rootstock, descend from a single, blight resistant tree discovered by Professor F. C. Reimer of Oregon State University in Farmingdale, Illinois in 1915. This seedling, and another, the ‘Farmingdale’, also discovered by Professor Reimer, are currently the go-to rootstocks for fireblight resistance.
And so it is that horticultural findlings sometimes prove to be of great importance. Another example of this is the Warren Pear discovered by T.O. Warren in Hattiesburg, MS around 1976. Here was a Pyrus communis seedling thriving in the heat and humidity of the deep South. How it came to be planted in Hattiesburg is a matter of some speculation. But cuttings were disseminated far and wide, praises were heaped up, and the Warren took on a kind of mythical status as a superior, blight resistant Southern pear.
So persistent and glowing was the praise given to the Warren, that I eventually planted one of the trees on a landscape job that my sons and I still maintain. That was about 17 years ago. Every summer since I have looked over the tree hoping to sample its fruit–but it was not until last summer that I was able to gather a dozen or so pears to bring home.
Now this is where where I am supposed to wax eloquent, and you are supposed to buy a half dozen Warren trees. But I kid you not, if there was ever a fruit for which the word exquisite is an understatement, the
Warren is that fruit. It is smooth, buttery, juicy, richly flavored–a true connoisseur’s delight. I have read that 5-star chefs will serve the Warren “naked” because it is just that good. This may seem like the silliest sort of foodie talk. But, once you have sampled a Warren, you will understand why these chefs are willing to risk looking like a common granny serving sliced pears for lunch. Even Oprah and Martha Stewart are now giving high praise to the Warren.
But alas, this wonder of wonders at table has grave deficiencies in the garden. To begin with, it takes years and years to begin bearing. And then because it produces no pollen, and apparently no nectar (which would attract pollinating bees from other trees) it is an exceedingly unpredictable and shy bearer. That enough Warrens are being grown to ship a box off to Oprah means that some growers are now pollinating the Warren by hand. This is an enormously time-consuming process. But it is obviously worth the effort to at least a handful of growers and apparently not a few consumers.
For the home orchardist, such efforts may seem herculean. But other possibilities remain. If Warren were grafted to dwarf roots, the tree would bear earlier. And if it were grown as an espalier, with pollinator trees close by, or as part of a multi-variety espalier tree, then hand pollination would be greatly facilitated.
I say it’s worth a try. Warren may be a wild pear, but it does its best work under the care of a husbandman in the backyard of an old home.