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.
Some recent notices in the Monthly on the quality and culture of pears invite remark. It is plain that the favorites in the garden and nursery need sifting and change, and more, rigid tests of merit. When such a fickle and tedious pear as the Buffum is held beside the princely Sheldon, as mutual subjects of undeserved neglect, it is plain that somebody lacks a taste educated by a larger trial of kinds. The editor packs an essay into his pungent counsel for a careful weeding out of lists and new methods in their make-up.
The pith in "Lacon" about saints is very close in point as to pears, that"a good many canonized as saints ought to have been cannonaded, and a large congregation cannonaded ought to have been canonized." Special friends there always will be about this or that taste or texture in a fruit. But that "there is no disputing about tastes," long since laid down as an axiom, only gains that force, when those who dispute know the whole of that wherein they differ. When, therefore, a lover of this or that fruit rates it into the roll of honor, it is in point to ask how much the judge knows about the others, which the promotion of his favorite over-rides and out-laws.
Now, rank in pomology must not be left to whim or caprice; Diplomas of merit should only be granted under the test of strict rules and standards. Otherwise, as many opinions would flash out about a fruit, as wrangled of old over the varied tinges, which from whim or environment, the chameleon wears. A like doughty debate was once held over the birth-place, name and merits of the Pinneo pear, whose worthlessness dawned upon the world in Eastern Connecticut.
The need of some closer tests of merit in a fruit, and a new deal of kinds, is best shown by an example. There is a pear of the same season as the Buffum (perhaps a little earlier) never yet offered on any regular sale list in this country, yet in every quality of tree and fruit very much its superior. This pear is the Heri-cart. It is a Belgian pear, as old as Yon Mons. perhaps one of his seedlings. None of our fruit books but Elliot's has it rightly placed as to season, tree or fruit. It is nearly as large as a Bartlett, ripens perfectly on the tree or in the house, and does not readily wilt. It is good as a worm-fall, or when picked from the ground at full maturity. It never rots at the core, and is very resistant to decay. Its flesh is buttery, juicy, and of the most delicate aroma. At maturity it is a handsome pear, of a tender, but of yellowish green, sometimes darker on one cheek, with a rosy blush. It bears well every year, and holds fast its fruit. Its tree-growth is fairly vigorous, somewhat struggling and jagged in youth, but shaping into graceful droop with years. It is as hardy as an oak, and thrives when the Bartlett fails and dies. It never mildews or leaf-blights, but holds its rich, green, broad foliage till late, maturing every twig.
Yet this pear is never heard of, while the Buffum holds a choice place in every catalogue.
Now, the Buffum, though so much favored, is a very fickle pear. When picked at just the right time, thinned so that each fruit gets full size, carefully laid away in the house, and watched for its exact point of ripening, it is a good, and sometimes a very good pear; but if you delay the picking or the eating beyond that right time, or if when picked it is not favorably placed as to its surroundings, or if it is not a specimen grown large by the sacrifice of its fellows, it is simply good for nothing, not a whit better than the common Harvest pear, Amire Johanette.
The very fact that of these two fruits of the same kind and season, the inferior is so known and cherished, while its superior seems "born to blush unseen, and waste its sweetness," speaks for a new deal in fruits. Some should come to the front, and others should "go away into outer darkness." It proves, too, that one fruit should not be placed high among the choice, and another ignored or banished, except under tests of quality less arbitrary than the individual vote or taste. The chances for whim or interest to go wrong, even under these, bespeaks the wisdom of some large, well-endowed horticultural garden where kinds of promise should have trial and test. About where that ought to be and how sustained, I shall say more beyond. In another article some simple rules for fixing the merit of a fruit will be offered, which may do till better are devised.