Excerpt from the Popular Garden Series magabook Orcharding with permission from its publisher, BowTie magazines, a division of BowTie Inc. Purchase Orcharding here.
Pears were much beloved by the ancients. Homer called pears a “gift of the gods.” Roman horticulturists used grafting techniques to develop more than 50 different pear cultivars. Hardy varieties of pears spread throughout Europe and Britain as Roman conquerors carried pear seeds on their quests. In the meantime, Asian orchardists were busy developing tame pears of their own.
Pears were soon established throughout Europe and Britain not just for out-of-hand eating, but also for pressing and for fermenting the pear-based alcoholic beverage called perry. Because “winter pears” stay good in storage for many months, pears were also preserved in wintertime table fare and grown for livestock feed, first in the Old World and then in the New.