McLaughlin Pear

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The Mclaughlin pear is a New England variety with a pyramidal pyriform shape that is oblong and tapers slightly towards the crown. The colour is greenish-yellow with a warm, flushed verso.
The skin is rough and cinnamon-coloured.
The tree is an upright cultivar and produces good-sized fruit, 3.5 cm long and 2.5 cm in diameter. When planting, choose a sunny spot. The tree thrives in zone 5 with humus-rich soil and good drainage. It can tolerate wetter soils than apples, as their roots regenerate in moist soil. They benefit from mulching and very light fertilisation in spring. Careful pruning ensures a healthy and long-lived addition to a diversified orchard.
The fruit begins to ripen from the inner stone outwards. The fruit must yield slightly at the short stalk to indicate ripeness. Harvesting begins in late autumn and this variety keeps well through the winter.
The Mclaughlin pear is a high-quality dessert pear. The flesh is not pasty and is extremely juicy.
The flavour is described as rich, sugary, delicate and spicy. Its aroma is aromatic.
Culinary applications include jams, baked goods, sauces and drinks. It can be enjoyed raw, and hard-boiled slices complement a cheese plate. For long storage they can be canned, preserved or fermented.
In Europe, pear trees were propagated by grafting. Unlike the English and the French, in 1629 the settlers in New England cultivated pear fruits by seed. This resulted in greater genetic viability than European pears and the new American varieties.
The cultivation and consumer acceptance of pear varieties never reached the popularity of the apple. World production of pears is only a quarter of that of apples. In New York, for example, 90 per cent of pear trees are Bartlett pears, with 1,200 acres devoted to pear cultivation. According to the 1875 census, apple cultivation in New York had 18,278,636 apple trees, representing an area equal to 1% of the state.
In the winter of 1903-04, due to harsh weather, many pear trees were destroyed in the Hudson Valley. The next generation of plants was more reliable for apples than pears. Commercial production moved west of the Rocky Mountains and close to processing and canning facilities.
Pears do well on the West Coast and in the Northwest, with 90-95% of today’s production coming from California, Washington and Oregon.
Most climates in the US are not favourable for pears, so more hardy fruits are preferred. Strong climatic variations affect abundant harvests and the health of the trees.
In the early 1900s, the American Pomological Society noticed the increasing development of fruit tree varieties.
The most desirable varieties were in demand, with Bartlett pears ranking first among the quality fruits. The Seckel pear was in second place, while the Bosc and the brand new Kieffer pear conquered the market for its attractive appearance and efficiency.
In 1630, John Endicott planted one of the first fruit trees: the pear tree. The Endicott tree has endured and is one of the oldest fruit trees cultivated in New England. Almost 400 years later it is still thriving.
It is believed that before 1800, the McLaughlin pear was native to Oxford County, Maine. The variety is documented in the 1847 issue of ‘The Magazine of Horticulture Botany and All Useful Discoveries’ by C. M. Hovey. It states that a dozen pear trees from the McLaughlin farm were grafted.
In the autumn of 1831, General Wingate of Portland, Maine, sent the Massachusett’s Horticultural Society a basket of Mclaughlin pears. The committee judged it to be a ‘very handsome fruit’ and a very desirable winter variety. A possible cross between St Germaine and Brown Beurre.
In 1848, the American Pomological Society was founded in New York by Marshall P. Wilder. The mission of this society is to promote the science and practice of fruit production and varietal development. At the headquarters of the Maine State Pomological Society at Highmoore Farm, in collaboration with the University of Maine, the work of preserving ancient fruits continues.
This application arose from an advertisement in the FEDCO Trees catalogue, where the only available rootstock for the McLaughlin pear was found. It was submitted by Steve Barr, whose family tree was planted about 120 years ago.
The McLaughlin pear is an uncommon pear, but a good choice for diversifying an heirloom orchard. Its hardiness qualities are attractive to orchardists.
The Maine Heritage Orchard is a 10-acre fruit preservation site. They cultivate 300 different varieties of apples and pears traditionally grown in Maine, many of them endangered.
They continue to hunt down long-forgotten ancient trees, identifying and saving them.
These climate-adapted heirlooms are cared for by this small farm using organic practices and planted together with perennials and other fruit trees. Orchard management uses clovers, grasses, native flowers and shrubs to stabilise the soil, promote healthy soil growth and create a balanced ecosystem.
The Maine Heritage Orchard is a destination that collects fruit varieties from 16 counties and dating back to 1630. Their work encourages the consumer and orchardist to preserve diversity by offering workshops in pruning, grafting, seed and scion exchange.

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Fruit, nuts and fruit preserves

Nominated by:SF USA