Article - Nashi Pears

 Nashi article  published in Grass Roots Magazine Aug 07 issue No. 183

 Nashi- (Asian pear) – P. pyrifolia & P. bretsnchneideri
by Peter Allen (AKA Pete the Permie)

 These pears originated and evolved in Asia, they are quite different to the European Pears we are used to in Australia, but they are a “Pome” fruit along with the Apples, European pears and the Quince.

Most peoples opinion of Nashi here in Australia is that they are tasteless; this comes from the market usually only supplying fruit of the Nijisseiki (20th Century) variety picked 3 months early & green, this suits the supermarkets, but a fully ripe Nashi is often yellow, juicy and sweet while still remaining crisp like an apple.

Traditionally Asian peoples used the fruit for a supply of portable liquid refreshment but this fruit deserves a better place in our gardens.

Now in most large Asian cities you will see them individually wrapped in foam webbing to protect the tree-ripened fruit from bruising and cuts on the thin yellow skin, these are usually around 150mm or more in size and have obviously been thinned and well cared for on the tree.

We currently have 24 Nashi varieties in Australia coming from Korea, Japan and China these vary in shape from round like an apple to the more traditional pear shape of Europe.

Fruit colors are from greenish yellow smooth skinned to golden tan russeted skins then dark brown, while in Japan they have bred a red skinned variety.    The Heritage Fruits Group would be interested in collecting any others that have found their way here or have been bred at home by planting the seeds.

Pears & Nashi will handle heavy poorly drained soils better than most of the fruit trees we wish to grow but of course will do best when grown on deep soils with a PH 6.5 and like apples they have handled my soils PH of 4.5 very well.

Nashi have a soft pliable growth and can be manipulated easily into shapes even placing nets over them directly can impact on the shape of the growth, mine look like ocean waves just from the weight of the light netting, they don’t seem to care how hard they are pruned but they do need cutting back yearly to reduce the amount of wood they can put on, this will also help to reduce the flowers as they set fruit very well and would need some thinning in most years. 

My suggestion would be to grow them more as a single tree rather than an espalier due to their strong yearly growth (similar to growing plums, peaches or nectarines), I would also multi graft them to spread the fruit ripening season if you only have room for one or two Nashi trees, a combination of Kosui, Nijiseiki and Hosui would cover most of the season on just one tree but there are so many more good ones as well.

Nashi are grafted to the same “D6” rootstock as European and Manchurian flowering pears but they fruit much quicker, in as early as 2years. It seems either will graft onto each other readily and it is very easy to add more varieties in the following years by using a cleft or “whip & tongue” grafting methods. I have also seen them grafted to roadside Hawthorn seedlings in Cyprus, these grew well and slower but that was more about the availability of water and nutrient in the limestone than the ability of the hawthorn to dwarf the plant growth.

Work is being done by some of us amateur grafters  to see if putting a Euro pear on top of  a Nashi to make the European Pear fruit any earlier, the old saying of “plant Perry Pears for your Heirs” gives some indication of the time needed to first set fruit in some situations for European pears this can be 5-7yrs.

In the Cotswold’s in the UK I took a photo of a 600 year old pear espalier that still produced lovely green pears, the pear trees at Petty’s Orchard in suburban Melbourne are around 100years old and will produce well into the future if looked after.

It is difficult to know how long Nashi trees will live here as they only arrived in Australia and the US officially in 1980.

 Another task is to see if all of the Nashi will graft to Quince rootstock and dwarf the tree or does it require an “inter graft” of “William’s Compatible” first then the Nashi on top.

More uses for the Nashi fruit will develop over time in our western culture as they become more abundant but I can say from experience they don’t make a good wine on their own they may be useful for tannin or acid in combinations with other fruits such as apples for cider where pears have been used traditionally for centuries but for now we should enjoy their new flavors & texture they bring to the table ( I must experiment substituting them in a Waldorf salad) and they are highly ornamental in flower.

Tree ripened fruit are excellent in appearance and taste, this will does mean you will need to net them, unlike other fruit trees the nature of their softer growth does not tear the netting so easily so I would put nets on and off each year rather than building structures.

My top 9 varieties listed below is limited to my tasting only 15 of these so far, I now have them all and await fruit in another year to evaluate their benefits to the home grower.

  Variety.  OriginShape of fruit.  FlowerDays to ripe  Skin  Pollinators  Storage  Chill.

Tsu Li


PearVery early176-189Lt green -Yellow

Ya Li.

Partly self fertile, Corella.

6 mthsLow

Japan 1898


Hosui, Shinsui, Packham's Triumph, Chojuro, NOT Kikusui

6mths cool stMod

Japan 1972

RoundEarly-mid135-145Gold- brown

Shinsui, Nijisseiki, Kosui. NOT Niitaka.

3-4 mthsMod 550h

Japan 1959

RoundMid-late125-135Gold - tan

Hosui, Chojuro, Nijisseiki. NOTShinsui.

2mthsMod 600h

Ya Li

ChinaPearVery early175-190Lt yellow green

Tsu Li. Tsu Li, Chojuro if pollen stored, Corella

Not coolLow

Hwa Hong

Korea 1941

PearEarly- mid155-167Yellow

Ya Li or Tsu Li

Maybe Hosui.

Mid 30daysHigh

Dan Bae

Korea 1969

Round largeMid171-179Tan

Willam’s BC, Hosui

5 mthsHigh
OkusankichiJapanVlarge roundMid- late195-210Brown russet

Chojuro, Nijisseiki, Hosui, partly self-fertile

6-7 mthsMed

Bong Ri

Korea 1941

Ovate pearEarly188Brown russet

Tsu Li, Hwa Hong


Source NSW Agric website.

The Low chill varieties would be worth trying in more Northern Australia but all Nashi fruit can be attacked by the European wasp if damaged or cracked by unseasonable rains, so I would say they may be very prone to fruit fly if left to ripen too much on the tree, this may mean earlier harvesting and storage till riper in those climates.

Cheers Peter Contact for more information European Pears. Pyrus. communis

These usually have a buttery texture when ripe they can be picked green and will ripen afterwards (off the tree). These are large trees to 15m tall if left unpruned; they handle pruning well and could be used for espalier. More about them next issue.

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