The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Kieffer and Orient Pears

Kieffer pear

I've been waiting with baited breath for our fruit trees to mature enough to bear, and it seems like every one has had a surprise in store for me.  This year it was the Kieffer Pear that set two fruits a year earlier than expected.

I watched those beautiful green pears swell all summer, and at last saw that their lenticels had turned brown, meaning that the fruit was fully developed.  As with all storage pears, you have to pick the fruits and then let them ripen for a few more weeks inside, so again I waited.  Finally, the day of the taste test came.  I sliced the pear into quarters and Mark and I each took a nibble...and just about spit it out.  Unfortunately, the pear I'd been waiting on for the last four years has gritty fruit with very little taste --- a pear that's best canned, reports the internet.

Brown lenticelsLooking up the pear's sister tree --- Orient --- turned up the fact that these two varieties are often planted for their extreme disease resistance, but that their fruit is extremely unexceptional.  I bought the duo because they were cheap and I wanted a pear tree, but now I wish I'd waited a year until I could save the cash for a tree that was both disease resistant and flavorful.  We put in an order for Starking Delicious Pear (reported to be "Bartlett-quality" and "virtually blight-free"), so hopefully in another four years, we'll be tasting a more flavorful fruit.

Meanwhile, I plan to graft some tastier varieties onto our existing pear trees.  More on that project in a later post.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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I'm sorry to hear that your pears aren't very good. I hope that they turn out being pretty good canned. Orchard is on the agenda for Spring, so I'll avoid the Keiffer pears.

Now the other type, they are actually named Orient? Initially I thought you were referring to some type of Asian pear.

Comment by Greg S. Wed Oct 5 08:54:38 2011
Sorry for the disappointment. I have Orient and Keiffer along with Pineapple and Moonglow pears planted but no fruits yet. I have eaten Orient and Keiffer pears that were totally bland like yours but also some that were pretty good. I wonder if weather conditions have a big impact or if some trees of the variety are better than others? I hope a pear cobbler might still be good even if fresh eating isn't worth it. Sounds like your chickens may be eating some pears next year...
Comment by Lisa Wed Oct 5 11:56:16 2011

Greg --- That's what I thought too, that "Orient" meant it would be an Asian pear. I was excited because I love the taste of Asian pears, but they're very prone to fire blight and hard to grow in warm, wet climates. Unfortunately, Orient and Kieffer are both a hybrid of Asian and European pears that seem to have skipped flavor on both sides of the family tree....

Lisa --- I have read that soil conditions and climate can affect fruit flavor a lot. It's also possible that people were labeling varieties wrong --- there seem to be a lot of pear variety names that mean the same thing and other variety names that refer to more than one type of tree....

Comment by anna Wed Oct 5 15:16:12 2011
I've had a pear tree in the back yard that my ex-husband planted years ago. Every year it produces quite a few pears and the deer and birds love it! My back yard borders the national forest, so we have plenty of wildlife to come eat them. I finally identified the pear tree and it's a Kieffer. A bit depressing as it's not the kind of pears I was desperately hoping for! :-( My girls were rather disappointed too! Anyone else know of anything good to do with these pears other than canning? Or should I just let the wildlife enjoy their pears as they have every year...?
Comment by Nita Mon Jul 1 16:30:48 2013
Nita --- We've had good luck topworking our Kieffer and Orient pears into other varieties this year, and expect a tastier crop hopefully next year or the year after. I couldn't tell from your comment, though, whether your tree was small enough to consider topworking. Unfortunately, I don't have any tips on actually eating Kieffer or Orient pears.
Comment by anna Wed Jul 3 08:06:12 2013
I actually found a few recipes I'm going to try for the pears. They all involve a lot of cooking and a lot of sugar, which I can certainly believe. As for topgrafting, I don't know if it's possible. My tree is about 7 years old and is about 20 feet tall. My ex has been talking about grafting another pear species that grew at his mother's house onto it, but he doesn't really know what he's doing so I haven't let him do it yet. Can you give me some info on grafting? Can any pear be grafted? Is there a particular time of year that's best to do it? We live in Texas, where we are having 100+ degree days and it will be hot until at least October. Any info you can give me would be appreciated as I don't want him to hurt the tree I have now. I may not be able to eat the pears myself, but the wildlife is happy and my tree is happy and I'd like to keep it that way! Thanks! :-)
Comment by Nita Wed Jul 3 14:20:00 2013
Nita --- I recommend checking out The Grafter's Handbook (or at least the posts linked to from the bottom of that post). You'll definitely want to wait until the trees are dormant, and will probably want to plan on grafting just before bud break in the spring.
Comment by anna Wed Jul 3 18:26:06 2013
In South Louisiana we have a canning pear that we can around the middle of September. I like my pears. They are a little gritty in places but if you cut out all of the seed bed in the pear they are not bad to eat. They are not as sweet as an eating pear but some I find are sweet. Especially, if you keep them in your house til they start to turn yellow. I make a pear cheese crisp I found on the internet. Everyone loves it. We have a hard time growing most fruit here in southern Louisiana however, this pear tree is pretty hardy if you live in a sub-tropical area like I do.
Comment by Eugenia Sun Sep 29 14:34:31 2013
Our Keiffer makes EXCELLENT, sweet juice. Try slicing up one of those Keiffer pears and pushing it through a juicer. EXCEPTIONAL!!!
Comment by Anonymous Mon Oct 28 14:22:01 2013

I live in SE Georgia and have numerous varieties good for the south. Some have already born some. The funny thing about your article which I saw for the first time today, I added an orient pear to a marginal spot in my yard today. it was a choice between Orient and Keefer, and I chose orient because the tree looked a little healthier than the keefers. I may regret the decision because I was looking for a pear to make pickles with. Orient may not be quite hard enough for the best pickles.

And that leads me to my comment. If you haven't tried pickled pears, you are missing out. Keefers make wonderful crunchy pickled pears. Pineapple pears which are very, very hard as well also make great pickles.

Good fresh eating melting varieties for the deep south are Southern Bartlett (different from Bartlett), Tennessee (best pear I've ever tasted) Golden Boy, Purdue, Scarlett, Leona, Acres Home, Southern Queen and Ayer. Good fresh eating crunchy types for deep south are LeConte, Southern King, Tennosui. Note Tennosui and Southern King are crosses between Tennessee and Hosoui (Japanese type). Tennosui takes after the Asian pear more while Southern King looks like a European pear. For both the texture is like a good Asian pear but the flavor is more European. However both varieties are winning top marks in flavor at fruit growers conventions. My trees are still babies, but the pears produced by my Tennessee pear, their mother variety, are spectacularly flavorful although a bit small.

Comment by Marcus Toole Sat Jan 30 21:05:56 2016

I forgot an important use for pears in general especially the hard ones. Use them as a as a kind of sweet starchy vegetable in savory meat dishes. I've sliced them up in wedges and cooked them up in a pork and rice dish with lots of herbs and onions. Also cut them up like you would a potato or turnip rood and throw them in with your pork roast. When diced up raw, they can add a crunchy element to a chicken salad. This year I plan to try them in a Chinese style stir fry.

Pick them while they are slightly green so they store a long time in the refrigerator and treat them like a vegetable. They add flavor and a lot of healthy fiber to many savory dishes. God bless.


Comment by Marcus Toole Sat Jan 30 21:33:23 2016
Hey People! Late to the fray here, but don't give up on these delicious pears. They are excellent eating - if ripened properly! Pick when they detach easily when lifted gently, or gather immediately when they fall. Put in a paper bag in a moderately warm spot in the house and leave them for a few weeks. Test one every once in a while. The ground color will change from greenish-yellow to warmer yellow and they will soften slightly. Peel and eat! Despite some stone cells, they possess excellent flavor and acidity, suitable for juicing or perry-making as well.
Comment by Jonathan Mon Dec 26 11:05:42 2016
I live in North Texas and my pears are just now fruiting for the first time. The orients are now ready and contrary to the other commentors, mine are hard as a rock but very tasty and very juicy. I am unsure there is a connection but I would compare their taste to the oriental pears in the grocery store that look like yellow apples only harder and grittier. I simply put them in the frig for a couple of days and then slice and eat cold. Although not bad as is, they are a little better pealed. My kieffers are not yet ready and my Ayers has yet to fruit.
Comment by TXjim Sat Jul 8 11:26:02 2017
for years i have been feeding my keiffer pears to the livestock until this year when we discovered the juicer we had stashed away. It has produced some of the best fresh juice I have ever had. I only wish I had ten more trees now.
Comment by john h Tue Sep 26 20:20:00 2017
Dont give up on your Kieffer pear. Like you I was disappointed by a huge crop of hard gritty rocks...until i learned how to ripen them. First they spent a week indoors in bags. Then i piled them all into the fridge. And left them there until january, when they had transformed into succulent sweet and juicy blotchy-looking orbs. After peeling off their leathery skins, we gobbled them up raw and decided they taste better than royal rivieras. It is a root cellar pear! It took me 4 years to figure them out but now I am grateful to be blessed with this tree!
Comment by Keralee Sat Mar 10 23:59:08 2018
We just made 12 jars of pear preserves with hard Kieffer pears, cooked with sugar, sliced lemon, vanilla bean, and star anise (and just a shake of cardamom). They are yummy delicious! Yes, the process is labor-intensive, but the results are well worth it, both for our pleasure and for sharing as gifts.
Comment by Anonymous Sat Aug 4 13:23:38 2018
I’ve had my kieffer pear tree for six years and for the first few years that the tree produced pairs they were really not flavorful and were tough . Finally this year I have a large crop and they’re absolutely tasty, crisp like an Asian pear and sweeter then previous years. We Already made a tasty pair sauce that did not require too much sugar and ust a bit of cinnamon also doing a infused vodka with the pears. We are also going to put them in our root cellar and try a preserve .
Comment by Julia Mon Oct 1 20:20:29 2018

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