This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V20", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
And first, no pear, new or old, should cumber our lists, not in tree, fruit or pretty nearly equal to the best of its season (say, for Summer) to those luscious favorites which crown your table, till the full ripeness of the late Autumnal varieties into which they glide.
A pear should be either at home everywhere, or named as partial to some locality. Some are as whimsical as humans about the soil in which they dwell, or the winds that blow on them, or the latitude of their home. Many kinds are as sensitive to the situation as are those European grapes, which on one side of a mountain yield a wine the pride of princely tables, whose vintage on the other slope makes but the common drink of the peasant.
The world has no room for small pears, new or old, that do not grade pretty closely up to the very best of their season. There is no market for small pears much below such a standard of excellence as, say for Fall pears, the Seckel. Big kinds, which do not grade quite up to that high level, may do. Fruit dealers buy no small pears when big ones, about as good to eat, are at hand. In fact, small pears must be mighty good to command a market.
However large or good a fruit your tree may bear, to elevate special care or culture, yet it must be hardy in leaf and limb, and a good thrifty grower, not prone to blight on twig or foliage. Its bark must show none of those deep, unseemly cracks and gashes, which so mar the looks and health, and life of some of the very best pears. Unless exceptionally reliable for fruit, good and large, no tree deserves planting that is tender to over-bearing or to tearing winds.
A pear worthy of the highest grade and large culture, unless a"Winter kind, should ripen readily and slowly, either on tree or in the house, needing no extra watching. Some pears in this regard exact as much care as young turkeys, or bees in swarming time. There are others whose very wind-falls are good, and which keep on improving up to full maturity.
There are pears which if not picked just at the right time, will rot at the core; others are prone to take on general decay, or to become mealy and insipid, unless picked and house-ripened; even then, if not eaten at the very moment of maturity they are worthless, or rot. There are some that give no such trouble, which, on the tree or the house, will hold good and sound, and slowly ripen till all are gone - pears into which the roots of the rot fungus make no headway, and about which you need not worry much more than over your apple or potato crop.
Now, how many of the pears, recommended for each season, come up to these standards, in tree or fruit? Take the Summer kinds. The Madeline is the earliest; yet who ever had a good one? They pass because they cook well, and are early; but they are astringent and choke. The Bloodgood is hardly better. The Summer Doyenne is too little for market, and only sought because so early and so pretty. Os-band's Summer, one of the earliest and handsome, though sometimes very good, needs early picking and good house care; but then it is small and uncertain, and does not crop well. The Giffard is as yet the only fine, full standard, very early pear that I have eaten. It often overbears; but in deep soil, and not loaded with too big a crop, it is a very fine fruit, and a good deal above medium size. It is never insipid, ripens well on the tree, though better in the house. The tree is healthy and thrifty, and with early pruning gains a graceful form. One of de Shurlliff's seedlings, the Pemberton, a full medium summer pear, would be most desirable, as it is the most beautiful of fruits, were it not for its proneness to leaf-blight. I am not going over the list of this class; but there is ample room for better large Summer pears, fulfilling all the terms of our rules.
We need not slight even mediums as good and large as well grown Dearborn Seedlings.
In face of such fickleness and defects in kinds, and the crude and untaught tastes so common, it is plain that pomological judges and fruit fanciers should hold as well for pears, as do the poultry-men, a scale of points; up to those standards every fruit should score pretty closely, to gain acceptance. Its record or its offer for sale should state that score. The Fall kinds, new or old, both in tree and fruit, would come before us under a measure of merit - better than any mere endorsement. Such a regimen would save the average planter a world of trouble. No more wasted years of patient waiting would end in re-grafting the fickle, cracking, blighting things.
I need not canvass the Fall and Winter pears put forward for our planting. They have no exemption from the frailties of their kind. Lots of them are"uncertain, coy and hard to please" into a luscious ripeness. Even after careful cuddling and watching, fine grown specimens often woefully dash our hopes. The leaves blight, and the fruit never gets over the bereavement; or if the season is too wet or too short, a whole crop of some kind is fit only for the stew pan or the pigs.
But we want even more than rules - some choicely located Pomological Garden, where all fruits may be tested over broad acres. No ordinary planter can afford the time, even if he has the facilities, to test every kind for which high qualities are claimed. I despair of such a garden, except under the Agricultural Bureau of the general Government; Fortunately, the climate of Washington is so near a medium of our two extremes that any variety there perfecting would have a fair chance to suit every latitude. That Bureau should get out of that petty seed distribution, in which so much blunder and plunder is off-set by so little good. In that business, the seedsmen, whose catalogues and seed boxes reach every country store and border post office, will beat them forever; but a Pomological Garden will furnish it a lasting and blessed work, too long and large for an individual task. If it now and then gives a Congressman a tree, its scions would reach a good deal closer to his constituents than one of Mullett's choice plans for a Senatorial mansion. There are but few lines of culture in which the clumsy, time-serving hands of the Government are not out of place. There is little work which the people can do in which government should ever dabble.
But there are lives of experimental trial whose task is too broad, and whose direct results are too profitless, to tempt, or to pay for individual effort. These are just those to which a wise Government will put its powerful and tireless hand and plentiful resources - a grand Pomological Garden is one. Go in for it, Mr. Le Due, and you can have the pomological world back you for the coveted dignity of a cabinet appointment.