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The Independent Online
David Berkley of Bridgwater writes with a problem about pears. "We have a 'family' pear tree, originally with 'William's Bon Chretien', 'Louise Bonne' and 'Conference', planted in 1973. How do we know when to harvest and how to store? Occasionally we get one that is just perfect, but more often they are either wooden or rotten. Perhaps we have the wrong varieties?"

The 'William's Bon Chretien', should be the first to ripen and should be picked while still green (usually in early September) just as soon as the stalk of the fruit will part easily from the tree. Then the fruit should be stored in a cool place for one or two weeks and eaten as soon as they start to soften. It's a fabulously flavoured pear, but susceptible to scab, unless it has perfect soil to grow in.

'Louise Bonne of Jersey' and 'Conference' are both slightly later to come into season than the 'Williams'. They should be ready to eat during late October and November. But, again, the fruit should be picked as soon as it will part from the tree and stored in a cool place to finish ripening. They will usually take between one and four weeks to reach their peak. Once there, they go off very quickly.

It was quite odd of the grower from whom Mr Berkley bought the family pear to put 'Williams' and 'Louise Bonne' on the same tree. They are well known to be incompatible in terms of pollination. His 'Conference' must be working very hard to cover both the other varieties as well as itself.