Tyson Pear: Portrait of an Heirloom Fruit
The Tyson pear is summer’s answer to winter’s Comice.
I spent the first twenty-some years of my life eating but one pear: the Bartlett, first found canned, bobbing in a soup of syrupy sweetness, second as the only option in the grocery store produce aisle. Years later, I discovered the many personalities and possibilities of the pear–the amazing array of shapes, sizes, flavors and purposes.
There are summer pears and there are winter pears. Bartlett is a summer pear ripening on the tree or shortly after being picked. Winter pears, like Comice, Bosc or D’Anjou are picked firm, kept in cold storage and released to ripeness when left to their own devices at room temperature weeks or months later. But that is just the tip of the pyriform; there are hundreds of amazing pears to grow and eat.
After reading the description (found below) in the Fedco catalog , I was smitten with the Tyson pear. I bought some scion wood and grafted it to an older pear tree. The resulting harvest: a pear with creamy non-gritty texture, superb flavor and abundant juice. It reminded me of a perfectly ripe Comice, the pear that half of America waits for and knows as Harry & David’s Royal Riviera Pear around Christmas time. Lucky for us, Tyson ripens months earlier, the first week of September in my Seattle garden (as seen in these photos). Now on Vashon, my newly planted Tyson is too young to produce, but I can assure you in a year or two I’ll be waiting with a plate of soft cheese and prosciutto the minute it yields to touch, and inevitably, my impatience.
Tyson Pear Summer. Jenkintown, PA, about 1794. The definitive 1921 text The Pears of New York calls Tyson’s flavor “second only to Seckel,” and says that the “tree is the most nearly perfect of any pear grown in America.” Medium-sized acute-pyriform deep dull-yellow fruit with some russeting and no blush is very juicy, sweet and aromatic. Local lore suggests Jonathan Tyson discovered it in a hedgerow on his farm west of Jenkintown, or maybe on the grounds of the Abington Friends’ school. Widely planted here in Maine for generations. Our scionwood comes from a huge spreading specimen in nearby Freedom. Well over 100 years old, the annually productive tree lived through all the great winters of the 20th century. Tolerant of bugs, disease and weather. Fire-blight resistant. Rare. Z4-6 (source: Fedco Trees, Tyson Pear)
Related read: Heirloom Pears by Sue Weaver