Came across these 2 interesting articles.
1) A facebook posting:
Bernie Nikolai to NAFEX
August 30 at 9:21pm ·
Its good to connect with my NAFEX friends again, after a few years of not getting the publication. I live in central Alberta, zone 3, and zone 2 in a test winter. My coldest at my hobby orchard a few years ago was -43C, or about -46F. Needless to say my 300 test fruit trees are among the hardiest on the planet, or they don't survive.
Recently I have gotten into hardy pears big time. The normal hardy pears such as Luscious, Summercrisp, even Ure are simply not hardy enough for me, and die at my orchard. Some like Early Gold and Golden Spice are hardy enough, but lack size and quality. However most folks are not aware of the Russian pear breeding programs, that have been breeding hardy and tasty pears for over 60 years continually. These pears have only very recently made it to this side of the pond, and are being sold in a few artisan nurseries in Canada.
I thought I'd make a few comments of the fruit I'm just now starting to get on my trees, with some photos...
The first photo is Vekovaya Pear (means Century in Russian). This is very large, up to 400 grams, pear shaped, and good taste.
The second photo is Krazulya (means Beauty in Russian). This is a very good tasting pear, but small, only about 80 - 100 grams, and it does not keep past a week or two. But truly excellent taste when ripe in early to mid August. You can eat it off the tree, rare for pears, and no storage is needed.
Third photo is Bolshaya (means Large in Russian). This is round like an apple, and good tasting and crisp. It is large as the name suggests, well over 200 grams. First year fruiting for me, and when a friend tasted it last week, he said "wow, the Honeycrisp of pears!" referring to the texture..
Fourth photo is the best so far in my opinion, Krasnobokaya (means Red on the Sunny side in Russian). Full sized, and as good or better tasting than any supermarket pear from what I can see. It has survived -48.3C above the snowline in a test winter in Russian conditions.
None of these pears has even shown tip damage after a winter of -41.3C. To me they are far hardier and much tastier than any other hardy pears normally planted. They are also basically immune to fireblight due to the Ussurienses ancestry and I have never seen this disease on any of them, and I live in a bad fireblight area (the Canadian prairies). I have several other pear varieties I am testing, but they are a few years from fruiting yet. Also its experimentation to determine when to pick them, how to store them and for how long and at what temperature to maximize taste and storage. Its a fun hobby.
These are generally F4 crosses that have taken decades to produce. The Canadian hardy pears are all F1 crosses with Siberian pear, which generally only produces a very tart, almost inedible fruit. The Russians have found you need at least an F3 cross to get size, quality, and hardiness, but this takes decades of breeding, and nobody in North America had the time or interest to attempt this.
2) A presentation this fellow gave to the Alaska Pioneer Fruit Growers Association.
Some more info can be found here on page 4:
In the Facebook post he said:
For US scionwood sources of these Russian pears you might want to contact the Alaska Pioneer Fruit Growers Association in Anchorage. This is a group of very keen amateur growers in Alaska, and some have been growing these pears in Anchorage and Fairbanks for a few years. I'm not sure if they are fruiting yet, but they are surviving and growing up there.