Fruit of Mystery

I have a big yard. So big, in fact, that after 15 years living here I am still finding fruit trees lurking in the underbrush.

Up in the area we call “the meadow” there are a handful of really old pear trees. We get small pears every other year or so, but the fruit disappears before it gets ripe. I assume that squirrels are getting to them. I don’t especially like pears so I’ve never really kept on top of it.

This year I discovered a little tree right at the edge of the meadow that had little round fruits on it. I thought they were crab apples. I had tasted one a month or so ago, and again today, and it was so tart and tannic that I had to spit it out.

Yesterday I harvested all of the remaining fruits from the tree, and brought them home.

Mystery Fruit

Here’s where I get confused. Those aren’t apples. Apples have a shoulder — the indent between the stem and the fruit on all apples. They’re also especially green for crab apples, which tend to be red or at least have a red “blush” when they turn ripe. These fruits are entirely green, with heavy russeting (a thick brown skin) and long stems with no shoulder.

I spent a good portion of the day googling, and I’m still not 100% sure what kind of fruit these are. They aren’t apples, and they aren’t quince (an exceptionally tart apple-like fruit). I think they may be old european wild pears. The wild pear was commonly used as a rootstock for domestic pears at the turn of the century, and it is not unusual (especially for old trees) for the grafted top of a pear to die off and the rootstock take over.

Sadly this means that these pears are probably inedible. Although they would probably make excellent pear cider. I used to make big batches of (hard) apple cider every year, so cider pears would not be unwelcome.

I put the mystery pears into the fridge; some pears need chilling to ripen. We’ll see if these soften up and turn sweeter.

5 thoughts on “Fruit of Mystery

  1. Quinces aren’t exceptionally tart and don’t have thick skin. Maybe you’re thinking of kumquats, which have bitter skin and tart flesh. These aren’t either quinces or kumquats.

  2. They look exactly like the pears in our garden, which are also small and hard. We only ever cook them. We’ve tried all ways to get them to ripen but they are more likely to start rotting if left too long. Cook and enjoy.

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  3. They are what we call Mostbirnen (juice pears) in Switzerland.
    Check Google or german Wikipedia for Mostbirnen and translate.
    They have a high content of tannic agents in their pulp but their juice is sweet once the residual pulp has settled.
    They are also immune against fruit flies and mildew.
    Their juice is traditionally mixed with apple juice and consumed fresh or as cider.

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