Orcas Pear: blush in a basket
I just picked my first (and only) Orcas pear from the three-year-old tree in my orchard. (Just wait until next year’s bumper crop!) According to WSU, “Orcas pear is a seedling discovered by Joe Long, a farmer on Orcas Island, WA. Introduced commercially in 1986, the trees are resistant to pear scab and productive, fruit is large and uniform size, good for canning or drying as well as fresh eating.”
Before I moved to Vashon Island, I was a frequent visitor to Orcas Island in the San Juan Islands just an hour and half north of Seattle. I feel safe in saying the San Juans and their Canadian counterparts the Gulf Islands are magical places, rare, beautiful, and wonderfully special. So any pear born in that archipelago must be worth growing.
Taste test: I really enjoyed the texture and the flavor of the Orcas pear. Not as grainy as a Bartlett, the flesh pretty much melted in my mouth and the juice held a brightness and sweetness, usually found in winter pears like Comice.
Here’s what One Green World Nursery has to say about them:
Discovered on Orcas Island, Washington, this excellent, disease-resistant variety produces good crops of very large and attractive, carmine blushed, yellow pears with smooth, sweet,buttery flesh. Excellent for fresh eating, canning and drying, Orcas is very reliable and productive and ripens in early to mid-September. These beautiful and tasty Pears can weigh of 1 lb. each!
Latin Name: Pyrus communis
Site and Soil: European Pears like full to 1/2 day sun and well-drained soil.
Pollination Requirements: European Pears need another variety nearby for cross-pollination. Our Asian Pear varieties can also be used as pollinators.
Hardiness: European Pears are hardy to minus 25°F. or below.
Bearing Age: 2-3 years after planting.
Size at Maturity: 10-12 ft. in height.
Ripening Time: Early September
Yield: 50+ lbs.
Pests & Diseases: Our European Pear varieties are generally quite disease resistant and easy to grow. Except for occasional problems with Codling Moth, we have not seen significant insect damage on our varieties.
USDA Zone: 4
Sunset Western Zone: 2-11, 14-18
Sunset Northeast Zone: 32, 34-41
I’d definitely recommend the Orcas pear for your home orchard. Winter pears like Comice, Bosc, and D’anjou require refrigerated storage to ripen properly, but Orcas is a summer pear that ripens days after picking. And dare I say, I think I prefer it to the mainstay pear of summer, the Bartlett pear.