Grown in the Far East for centuries, Asian pears (also called "apple pears") differ from European pears that soften and become overly juicy as they ripen. Asian pears' flesh remains firmer like that of an apple, and they store for many weeks if kept in cool, dry conditions. Hundreds of varieties exist in Asia, but about 25 grow in the Pacific western states. Asian pear trees produce more fruits if grown in groves, which increases pollination of their springtime flowers.
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Round, Green to Yellow Skin Varieties
Sometimes described as round or "flat" since they lack that distinctive neck or "pear-shape," Washington State University mentions that these varieties are grouped by their mature skin colour. Green- to yellow-skinned Asian pear varieties include: Shinseiki, a yellow-skinned fruit with firm flesh that ripens in early to midsummer, and Nijisseki (known as "20th Century" in the United States), which is regarded as the best-flavoured and most popular pear in Japan and America. Nijisseki originated around the year 1900 in Japan. It has round yellow-skinned fruit that is easily bruised but stores up to six months.
Round, Brown to Bronze-Russet Skin Varieties
Here are some Asian pear varieties that develop brown to bronze-red skins. Ichiban Nashi produces large brown-skinned fruits in midsummer. Shinsui also yields brown fruits that are ready to harvest just after the fruits on Ichiban Nashi ripen. Kosui fruits are small and "flat," with a bronze-russet skin with very sweet-tasting flesh. Hosui, a new variety with large bronze-skinned fruit with sweet juicy flesh, is becoming increasingly popular in American markets, according to the Washington State University Extension. Chojuro is not as juicy as modern varieties--it ripens in late summer and has orange-grown skin. Shinko yields large flat-topped fruits of attractive bronze-red skin. This tree is good for hot climates.
Asian pears also develop fruits with a similar shape to the familiar Barlett or Bosc European pear varieties. These pear-shaped Asian varieties, regardless of their skin colouration, are placed in a separate category than the round or "flat" varieties. Ya Li fruits are green in colour but bruise easily. Their flavour is milder and sweeter than many other Asian pears. Ya Li is the most important pear variety in China according to Washington State University Extension. Tsu Li is a green pear with a greasy skin that is shaped more like a rounded American football than a classic pear. The fruit stores up to 10 months and tastes better the longer it ages. Okusankichi ripens its brownish russet-coloured fruits in mid-autumn. The shape is elongated but irregular. As the fruits age in storage, the flavour improves.
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