This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
NO fruit so constantly maintains as high prices as pears. At first it would seem difficult to account for this. But the quality of a well ripened pear is very high, and the overstocking of the market quite rare. The tree is rather more subject to disease than the apple, but while apples are the great orchard fruit, it is difficult to say why large pear orchards, especially of standards, are compared with apples, so few. Even supposing the estimate of five trees in each hundred to be the annual average loss by pear blight in the United States, it is even then no reason why pears should not be more largely cultivated. But we do not believe that the average pear blight loss for the Middle and Northwestern States is over two trees in each hundred by the blight. We are sure that many a pear orchard does not lose annually an average of one tree.
Perhaps one reason why more pear trees are not relied on for pecuniary profit is, because of their slow growth. We know of quite a number of orchards that were diligently cultivated for a few years; then abandoned in disgust; sold at loss, and neglected for a few years, but now when fifteen or so years of age has been acquired, they pay liberally and with reliable certainty their present owners. This fact of the necessity of time to mature the tree and bring it into healthful bearing, is an essential to be fully understood before one invests his capital in pears. Such examples as this often occur: Lawyer Sudden-zeal buys five acres for a pear orchard. He is going to get, in four to five years, Bartletts and Flemish Beauties, and other varieties, worth sixteen dollars a barrel wholesale, and retail prices to match. He plants. Not a weed grows in all the orchard for three years. Then the trees are not much of a sight, nor reliable as he supposed, and he tires, and in two years more the orchard is sold, and Lawyer Sudden-zeal is out of pocket over one thousand dollars. Dr. Hard-bargain buys it next, and means to show Mr. Sudden-zeal that he can get pears.
But the Doctor loves to smoke and gossip in his office, and that is not good pear culture; and he lets the weeds and grass grow worse than ever. Jim Cash-grab then buys the orchard of the Doctor at a loss of six hundred dollars more. Jim sells all the trees he can at any price, skin-flints the orchard, but fails to do much harm, and at last sells to Mr. Move-west the elephant, openly glorying that he sold a hundred trees at a dollar each, and got out of that bad job, at only a hundred and twenty dollars loss. In the meantime the twelve to fifteen years of age have passed over the trees.
Mr. Move-out-west is from the East, where labor is not despised. He looks over the forlorn five acres, and concludes that two years hard work will infuse life into the orchard. He replants the spots whence the skin-flint Jim Cash took out trees. He carefully cultivates, and patiently expends one third of all he expects to get each year on the trees, and has a steady annual sale of six to eighteen hundred dollars profit, out of the very land and trees hitherto so unprofitable, and so often sold by its owners. Such is the private history of many such an attempt. Whence these errors? and why do these ever present characters of brainless attempt ,supposed good luck and sharpness, cash-grab, and in the end successful thrift, follow in regular succession? Is it not because the real work, the long time, the clearly foreseen final result is not understood?
Again. As countries grow older, the apple ceases to command high prices as compared with the pear. We do not think this always just or desirable. Yet, if we read the history of the culture of each, rightly, this is often the case. Of the reasons for it, I will name but one. The original scattered population of New England and the Middle States, with scattered homes, mainly on farms, know that the apple, eaten at all times and to satiety, is the best fruit. The few pear trees soon satisfied the appetite. Hence farmer Quiet-neighbor found that his ten pear trees gave him all his family could eat of pears; and though he sold now and then a bushel or a peck at prices far beyond any apples to some man whose mercantile or other employment gave him cash and a taste, yet too often it was that Tom Workly-by-the-day, in settling accounts, took ten bushels of grafted apples at thirty cents, and a peck of pears at forty cents - the latter for " family preserves " and for *• the wife and children." Now though "the preserves," "wife and children," might have the best flavors and sense of values, yet ' in the olden time" this practicality of Mr. Work-out left its impress not yet effaced. And it will be difficult to change it in the general farming population.
A farmer of the average mental capacity will put out ten acres of apples in his orchard, and ten pear trees in his door-yard. One of less capacity will put out five acres of apples, and one pear sprout, whose fruit is as hard and knotty as an oak knot. The apple he will buy of a traveling pedlar, the pear he will beg or dig up at the root of some old tree, whence it sprouted. It is singular in the opinions and practices of mankind, how many men are controlled by such half traditional, half obstinate ignorance! Yet even such a man will covet the young trees of Merchant Thrift at the post office, or hire the right to the trees set out by Poor-coot, who once built a log cabin on the hill, bought and planted a few choice trees, died an inebriate, and the log cabin burned up, leaving the rose bushes, shade trees and fruit struggling in the meadow, as it now is of Esquire Buy-upland, the relics of the once educated taste of inebriate Poor-coot and his disappointed but gentle wife. But such country legends aside, they show the value set by even thoughtless men en the pear.
They also how us that it is the ever growing literary, educated, and those employed not in farm or other produce, who hug and love the pear more than the apple.
And hence, as these are in all nations more numerous, as the nation grows older, the buyers of pears multiply, even if those who eat apples do not decrease. This consumption of pears, then, is mainly in our towns, cities and villages; and as they ever grow, it renders the large cultivation of pears a certain source of remuneration.
We call these facts to the attention of the readers of The Horticulturist. With right principles, and with long expectancy, plant the pear orchard. Not to gather early its fruits, but its late, and its certain results of liberal reward. We are glad that a few localities are wise enough for this; that certain individuals are famous for this their wisdom. We believe many more could be added to the list. Plant, we repeat, wisely. Expect patiently. Gather surely.