I’m going to share my pear journey with the hard to find, but ridiculously tasty Biscamp pear. There’s not much information out there and even 6 years, post purchase, the company I bought it from still has very little information and nothing new added to their website.
I bought my Biscamp pear from justfruitsandexotics.com I did a lot of research. I will add links at the bottom of this article, so you can see what information is out there, and you can make a more informed decision on whether to invest in this pear.
You can see the burned, light yellow, chlorotic leaves here. I discuss this further down.
I have a few fruit trees from just fruits and exotics and I’ve been really impressed with the quality and health of their plants. If you are in the South and need fruit trees, with specific chill hours, these are the guys to buy from.
First thing to research about fruit, in the South of the United States, is knowing your specific chill hours! Google your county extension office. You can can frequently add “average chill hours” to your query and find it that way. If you are having difficulty finding your chill hours: look for your local master gardeners. These are people who keep their master gardening designation by volunteering hours helping the public with horticultural questions. If they don’t know, they’ll find someone who does.
They are part of your local county extension office and should have an email address to send your questions to (if you are in the Northern US, with hard freezes, you don’t have to worry about this, but since this is a low chill tree: you won’t be able to grow it north of zone 8a.)
The pear I bought was found on an old homestead and thought to be: self fertile (a big deal with pears as the full sized trees take up a lot of room), full sized (30+ feet tall and about 15 feet wide), has about 400 chill hours, is an antique, Oriental/European pear hybrid variety resistant to fire blight and is a low/no fungal/insecticide spray variety.
The pear was loaded with fruit this year!
Pears are in the rose family (as are other pome fruits, like apples and quince, and suffer the same diseases.) This variety, however, is a champ when it comes to diseases and insects. Not much work to do to keep it very healthy!
I can confirm the chill hours. San Antonio Texas has about 550 chill hours, in a cool year. My Biscamp breaks dormancy in late February (our last frost date is February 24th). It sometimes requires protection so that the flowers don’t freeze back. The fruit is ready to harvest, in our 100 degree heat, by the beginning of July. About 4 1/2-5 months after flowering. I am zone 8b/9a in Southern Texas.
I don’t mind only saving half of the tree’s flowers if I get a freeze, by draping the tree with a long piece of burlap, as I use my pear for both privacy and fruit. This year, I didn’t get a late freeze. So I got a lot of pears throughout the tree. I have let the pear grow to its full height. I have an extension fruit harvesting basket, and what I can’t reach from the ground I send my husband out on a ladder (with the harvest basket) to get the pears at the very top.
Picking pears requires knowing when to do it, as all European pears (and Oriental/European hybrids) need to be removed from the tree prior to ripening and be fully ripened indoors. If your Biscamp pears are about the size and weight of a Bartlett, that you would buy at the grocers, you are in the right time frame. Also, when your backyard wildlife begins getting a taste for the fruit, you know you are close to harvest. One of the best ways to gauge ripeness is observing how the fruit hang. If the stem is arched and the fruit hangs out and to the side: the pear isn’t ripe. If the pear has stretched the stem straight down, from its own weight, it’s close to ready to pick.
Squirrel or rat damage. I know: when they like them, we’re close to when I’ll like them!
To harvest: lift the pear up at a 180 degree angle from its hanging position. If it easily releases from the branch when you do this: it’s harvest time. Make sure you always lift a pear up and away from the tree and do not pull it downwards. This will protect the stem on the fruit. If the stem pulls away from the fruit, the fruit will rot before it is ripe. It’s very important to leave the stem on your fruit, as it ripens indoors, especially if you don’t want to waste the whole harvest!
If you noticed the indentations on the pear in the picture here, this is a sign of calcium deficiency. It isn’t a problem with deficiency in the soil, but availability to the plant’s roots (same reasons you get blossom end rot in tomatoes: irregular and heavy irrigation and in this case, also high pH soil.) You can’t fix this in the soil but you can spray the developing fruit with calcium. High soil pH is a real pain here, but not all of the fruit had problems. Here’s a better explanation: http://xtremehorticulture.blogspot.com/2013/11/brown-spots-in-pear-and-apple-flesh_25.html?m=1
At the pears 4th and 5th years of age, I got maybe 5 pears each year from the tree. These are so similar in texture and flavor to a Bartlett pear! They are delicious and juicy! Unfortunately, Bartlett pears are very fire blight susceptible and cannot be used in the South. Biscamp is an excellent substitute!
This is 50 pears, on their way to ripeness! There’s approximately 6 to a bag.
If you ripen them in paper bags, 1-2 pears deep, and with a piece of banana peel or an apple (for the ethelyne gas, which helps with ripening), they are fantastic! I use paper lunch bags, and I can check them easily. They are ripe when they start to soften. Biscamp pears have been soft and melting for me, but I know how to ripen them. Not many casual gardeners know that you have to have special conditions to ripen European and hybrid pears successfully.
This year, year 6, I got a decent crop of pears (50, with a few more still out there.) Training the brittle, narrow pear limb crotches, at 10 and 2 o’clock from the central leader (starting at year 1), tricks the pear into thinking it’s older. Naturally, the weight of the fruit pulls branches out and down, when it is of bearing age.
I spray this tree once in the fall, after leaf drop: with dormant oil, and once in the winter: with dormant oil and copper. This has worked well. I spray all of my fruit trees at once with the same solution and, other than my persimmons (that get sooty mold and black spot without a separate spray. For the black spot treatment, I use a natural fungicide and insecticide: neem oil. I use Tangle trap on a fabric tree wrap, for the: ants/aphids, that cause the sooty mold. Those are effective if you end up with either on your pear.) I currently do not have issues with fungal disease or pests on the Biscamp pear.
The main problem I AM having with the pear is: I have super alkaline soil. It pegs the meter when tested. Our soil is so alkaline that: even our ground water will kill acid loving plants just by watering with it. This year has been exceptionally dry. I hand water my fruit trees as well as run our sprinklers (that were originally installed by previous owners, for a grass only yard.)
Some years I need to water more than others. Unfortunately, this year the pear is suffering from iron chlorosis. It has been touchy for a couple of years. I have been throwing my coffee grounds out on it for years, but this year that isn’t enough and it’s sick. I attempted to help it along by drilling down into the soil around the drip line and adding Sulphur and Iron. It hasn’t shown much improvement, although that treatment takes time.
The chlorotic leaves are white with no veining and have burned back from the sun, heat and dry wind. It is not fireblight, but it looks pretty similar. Still, it’s filled with fruit, and only the new growth has been affected, so I’m very happy!
Having an arborist come out and do a trunk injection of iron is not in my budget. So, after searching online, I found these implants: I will update this post next year and tell you what I think of them.
So what have I come away thinking of a Biscamp pear? It’s a fantastic: low chill, self fertile, low maintenance, incredibly tasty, pear.
My only caution is for high pH soil. You can do your own soil test by adding your soil to a glass of vinegar. If your soil bubbles like crazy and doesn’t stop, then the free calcium carbonate is probably too high to correct. If you take care, and create the correct planting conditions, lower your soil pH with amendments from the beginning, and watch for and treat chlorosis during dry hot summers, I believe that the tree will perform well for you. But Ph issues will be a life long problem. If you do not want to have to worry about your soil, then you may want to grow a different fruit than a pear.
I highly recommend this variety if you are in the zones 8a-9a in the South and have more neutral soil. I researched for about a year before I installed the tree, and I’m really glad I did: as it has exceeded my expectations!
Interested in finding out more about pears in general, and specifically, about the Biscamp variety? There’s not a whole lot out there, but this is what I’ve found:
Information about the Biscamp variety, and the other pears this company carries: (You can also find on the page below, in a .pdf file directly below the name of the pear, instructions on caring for pears):
A little more on Southern pears and the Biscamp:
Some information about Biscamp and pear quality. (I don’t agree that this pear is gritty but it may have something to do with our heat, when the pear is harvested and how it is ripened.)
General pear information with a .Pdf file describing taste of a list of pears, including the Biscamp. http://www.mcmga.com/51/45/mcmga-fruit-nut-tree-sale-happening-soon-january-27/
In depth information for garden nerds that want to know more about pears. Great info about how how a pear tree creates fruit from its flowers and how to perfectly ripen your fruit indoors. (I love this article BTW! She’s a biology teacher and really covers a lot in a concise, fun way! If you have a pear tree: this is necessary reading.)
High pH: what am I getting myself into? Find out what the experts say about changing soil pH.