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.
Orcas pear: a fine fresh eating summer pear — smooth, subtle, sweet.
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
Better make like a pear and peel…more later!
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.
Can you get me cuttings (bremerton:?)
As an Orcasite, I applaud your good taste! 🙂
Ah Perri, lucky you. What a lovely island. I used to camp up at Doe Bay years ago in the off season before it was so popular. Great place to jump start yourself or rest up.
A truly beautiful pear, Tom. Looks like you enjoyed every teensy weensy bit of it. Figs remain unripened.
Brooks I think a couple of the fig twigs you gave me may have rooted, I see some new green sprouts. They’re hanging out in the greenhouse.
This looks like a delightful pear, indeed. Anything described as “buttery” is a winner in my book! I wonder if these pears are in commercial production? I’d love to try some, but am not planning on putting in any pear trees right now. It is certainly getting to be pear streusel pie weather here.
Lucy, pear varieties are pretty limited commercially. It seems all you ever see is Comice, Bosc, D’anjou, Packham, Bartlett, and if you’re lucky Seckel. Your best bet is try to your local farmers market. Ask the farmer, they may have a single tree with fruit that they may not bring to market, but would share with an appreciative connoisseur. I do that with a couple apple varieties, like Bramleys and Belle de Boskoop.
Tom – that is one scrumptious looking pear. One day I must visit the San Juan Islands – they really do sound every bit as beautiful as our Gulf Islands!
Ina the San Juans are really stunning too, like your Gulf Islands. I’m a fan of Orcas, and Lopez for quiet, and San Juan for more activity.
I’m kind of a crunchy pear guy — basically a little under ripe. Is this one softish or crisp?
Nick stick with Bosc — it’s crispy and sweet. When the Orcas is crisp it’s a bit under-ripe and less flavorful. Also, I love Asian pear apples for crispy and juicy. My favorite is called Shinsui. You should plant one, a nice small tree and reliable producer and great fruit.
OMGoodness… I have JUST happened upon your blog coming from Facebook & I have to say… this is ‘to-die-for’ stuff! I could get lost here… I can’t wait to find the time to read more of your writing. Til then… HAPPY PLANTING, BAKING, etc.
BLESSINGS from Kentucky!
Welcome! What a nice note to find after coming in from picking apples. Thanks for the kind words and blessings. I’m enjoying a lovely sunny October day here, hope the sun finds you too this day!
I agree with everything you said about Orcas pear. Ours fruited for the first time this year, 5 years after planting, and wow were they worth the wait! Extremely large, beautiful pears, I think we got 20? We also have a Rescue pear planted at the same time, but it lost it’s central leader at year 2 and has taken a while to recover. It had a few pears though and they were also outstanding! Whoo Hoo for Washington/Puget Sound regional fruit!
So glad to hear of your pear success Karen. I have to learn to eat mine when they are firm but yellow as they tend to ripen from the inside out and if you wait too long, you have mushy center. Happy Growing!
Just purchased a rescue orca from Raintree. I was glad to find your web site as I had forgotten about One Green World! I look forward to reading your blog and hopefully having more light switches flipped/ awaking more of my past memories (long illness with a lot of blank spots in my brain I’m trying to regain). Thank you for having a beautiful, welcoming web site!
Thanks for the visit and kind words Sheila. Here’s to an abundant harvest and your full recovery!
What are your favorite recipes for Orcas pears? I have my favorite Bartlett recipes, but don’t know if they work well for the Orcas. Thanks, PatriciaC
Hi Patricia, I would say the pears are interchangeable, both ripening early and softening up in late summer. If you wait too long, they get mushy quickly I’ve found. I love this recipe for pear kuchen, worth the effort: http://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1016963-pear-kuchen
Tom, my stepdaughter planted two Orcas pear tees in 2006, in honor of my sister, who had died the previous year. We were never on Orcas for September, but we moved here last year, and behold, the Orcas pear is ripening. I like pears in their hard state so I may not be able to wait for the buttery taste!
Hi Peggy, what a lovely way to remember your sister, with the yearly beauty of these trees and the wonderful harvest of their fruit. I just picked my Orcas pears and I’m eating them in the hard state, too. As they ripen so quickly, I’ll be enjoying them in the soft stage very shortly as well. Thanks for the kind comments. Tom