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.