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Enjoy the Florida Sand Pear

If you have ever visited an old homestead in Florida then you are sure to have passed their pear tree.  It seems to have been a staple for many Florida families.  The pear we continue to grow in North and Central Florida does not look anything like a pear you would purchase in the grocery store.  Florida pears are round and gritty inside, giving them the name “sand pears” or “hard pears”.   

Most agree that this pear is Pyrus pyrifolia.  There are many different cultivars of sand pears.  The pears in the grocery store are usually European pears and eaten fresh because of the soft, juicy flesh.  Sand pears, probably a type of Asian pear are rounder, crisper, and only occasionally eaten fresh.  Sand pears are almost never eaten fresh and usually reserved for pies, pear butter, jams, and canning.

If you are lucky enough to have a sand pear in your yard, then you know that they are hardy trees that require very little attention once they are established.  Some are susceptible to fire blight.  A bacterial disease where the tips

of the tree will begin to die back.  The dead wood should be pruned until healthy wood is reached.  The most difficult thing about a sand pear is deciding when the fruit is ready to be harvested.   Which cultivar of sand pear will determine when they are ready to be picked.  Pyrus pyrifolia X communis ‘Hood’ can be ready as early as July.  Other cultivars ripen through November, providing a potentially long season.

 

Many people will tell you to wait until they start falling from the tree before you begin harvesting.  However, you can usually harvest much sooner and not give half of the crop to the wildlife.  Look for pears that are beginning to turn yellow and will easily pull or snap from the tree.  If you have to twist or tug then they are not ready.  Sand pears will not ripen much after harvest, but the earlier you pick them the less “sandy” or gritty they will taste.

If you want to use them over ice cream, pancakes or for canning, then peel and slice your pears.  A little water and some lemon juice will keep them from turning brown.  Cook them in a pot with sugar and cinnamon.  The amount of sugar is up to you and how sweet you want the pears.  One cup of sugar for 4 cups of pears makes them only slightly sweet.  Also, the more sugar, the thicker the syrup will become.  No matter how you decide to cook your pears, remember to enjoy this unique Florida fruit.     

22 Comments on “Enjoy the Florida Sand Pear

  1. my mom had two sand pear trees. She made the most AMAZING pear preserves, with lemon or with pineapple in them. SCRUMPTIOUS!!!

  2. My grandmother had a tree in yard in Lecanto. She always had gobs of canned pears and made the best pear cobbler. Yummy! I loved picking a pear and eatyit right off the tree. I would dearly love to have a sand pear tree in my yard.

    • Check with your local nursery or garden center to see if they carry any trees. If you are in the North Florida area, we will be having a fruit workshop on October 11th at the Columbia County Extension Office and will have some available at the workshop for sale. We will most likely have ‘Thanksgiving’ which ripen closer to November.

  3. I currently reside in Lady Lake Fl. My property have over 75 of these trees! This property has been vacant for nearly a decade. I am considering doing a weekend Upick and I like the idea of creating a product with the pears. I think they will be fully ripen in 3 to 4 weeks. My trees a are 30 feet tall with an abundant amount of fruit. I feel like if I don’t do anything this season I will regret it.

    • Hi Liz, Your Florida pear tree story is awesome,
      My name is Jared I am a Fruit tree and medicinal herb collector with over 500 varieties of plants, I have searched for central Florida sand pears for years and I am still looking. I would love to see these trees and offer you plants or cash in exchange for cuttings and seeds.

    • 75 pear trees is a LOT of fruit!! I bet your property is brimming with wildlife. Very cool

    • Susan, You can purchase trees from local nurseries. A good one in North Florida that carries UF recommended varieties is Chestnut Hill Tree Farm in Alachua County. Check with your local nurseries as well, as most carry fruit trees. Grafted varieties only take a few years to be really productive.

  4. Hi! Did you make a you pick? Would like to come for a family outing 🙂 maybe a photoshoot

    • Paula,
      Most properties only have one or two trees. I have not found a u-pick yet, but from the comments it sounds like a good business venture for someone!

  5. I would like to come up and get some I grew up in the panhandle there was a sand pear tree in the yard,I love these better than the other pears.

  6. I have a sand pear relish recipe that I canned that my mother-in-law gave me years ago and my family has been wanting me to make more. I use to have a neighbor that had trees, but they were removed from her property after she passed away. I have no source to getting them now. Do you know where I can purchase them?

    • Yvonne, Unfortunately I don’t know a regular source for the pears. Sometimes you can find them at roadside stands or as you did before, a neighbor’s house. I would consider planting one of your own if you have the room.

    • I get to pick some on an empty lot near my daughter’s house near Loxley, AL Could I possibly get your recipe for the relish. I love making chutney and preserves. Making a pear, cranberry and walnut bread tomorrow. Already made pear and blueberry preserves.

      • This is a very old, tried and true recipe. I’d also love to find some of the hard pears to make this again. I never tried it with the soft, grocery store pears; I think it would be mushy.

        HOMEMADE PEAR RELISH — we used a meat grinder, it should be a chunky consistency like store-bought relish. Sorry, I don’t remember how many canning jars we used, and you’ll need a huge pot to mix it in.

        4 Quarts Peeled and Ground Pears (about 30 pears) = 16 cups after peeled and ground
        2 Quarts Yellow Onions (about 7 large) = 8 cups after peeled & ground
        8 Green Bell Peppers – remove seeds
        2 Red Bell Peppers – remove seeds
        12 Dill Pickles
        1 Cup Salt
        2 Jalapeno Peppers – remove seeds
        8 TBLS Sifted Flour
        4 Cups Sugar
        2 TBLS Turmeric
        6 TBLS Dry Mustard
        2 Quarts Dark Vinegar

        1) Grind pears, onions, peppers and pickles. Mix together, Add salt and let stand for 1/2 hour. Drain well.
        In a large pot:,
        2.) Mix dry ingredients and some vinegar to make a smooth paste, then add remaining vinegar to the paste. Stir and boil for 5 minutes.
        3.) Turn off the heat and add ground pears, onions, peppers and pickles and mix well. Let stand 3-5 minutes.
        4.) Pour into canning jars while hot.
        5.) Enjoy! Makes a great gift.

  7. Any chance of seeing a photo of the trunk of one of these trees? I have been trying to identify two trees on my property that I believe might be this fruit tree. We moved here in December and the trees are just starting to have leaves come in. They started appearing about 10 days ago and are emerging at a very fast pace. No sign of fruit yet. Fingers crossed!
    Searching the web has only produced photos of fruit and leaves. The leaves look promising.

  8. greetings Erin,
    Thank you for an interesting article concerning Sand Pears. I have a neighbor with Sand Pear trees infected with Rust Fungus on much of the fruit. Local literature does not offer any cure for this problem and I was wondering if there is anything new to fight this fungus for residential uses.
    Thank you in advance for any help on this issue.

    Mike Poff

    • Mike, Are you located in Columbia County and have you had the disease diagnosed? Is it just the fruit or leaves as well? I want to make sure we are providing the correct recommendations. Feel free to email me some photos at eeeck@ufl.edu.

    • Many have this fungus especially if red cedar trees are nearby. They host the fungus. Our tree has it bad most years but not this year.

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