Winter Nelis thread

I’m not sure what I should take into account for picking pears that DON’T ripen on the tree. The birds seem to think they are ready! How do I judge when to pick, considering that they will be in the refrigerator for at least a few weeks? I am in Santa Cruz, CA, zone 9b, sunset zone 17. In case any of this matters, it’s 90 degrees today, but it may cool off in the coming weeks. Thanks!

Birds pecking on them can be a good sign they are ready. Other tests are push a thumb in the flesh by the stem and feel a bit of give, cut open one and look for dark brown seeds, or lift up and see if the fruit naturally detaches. Every variety is somewhat different. I have Winter Nelis but its not producing much and its not ripe yet here.


Thank you Scott! What would we all do without you?!


If you get any good Nelis pears this season, please share a few photos if you can. :grinning:

1 Like

I shall, but they are not the prettiest pears!

Well…it’s about four years since I asked the above question, and I’ve learned a lot–the hard way. I recently answered a PM about Winter Nelis, and since it has some accrued knowledge in it for the California Central Coast, I thought I’d post parts of it on this thread:

"Winter Nelis is a great tasting pear, as I’m sure you know! But I’ll tell you a couple of drawbacks, just FYI.

Winter Nelis is not entirely immune to fireblight, just resistant. It gets strikes on flowers, and also on twigs and small branches–but I’ve never had to remove a large branch. It might be that a young recently planted tree would be more vulnerable though. (Perhaps a local master gardener or someone in the Monterey Bay chapter of the CRFG would know.)

Second, unfortunately the tree gets LOTS of pear scab, black spot, whatever the disease is that makes the flesh corky and cracked, and other pathogens. It is unusual to end up with more than 10% unaffected fruit. Although I don’t care about looks, it matters in a winter pear like Nelis because they have to be put in cold storage (although not as cold as most pears need) for 30 days after picking, and any blemishes usually cause the pear to rot in storage. Nelis is said to need higher chill than we get here, and I wonder if it’s more suited to places with low winter temps to kill pathogens, or with less of the fog and moisture that encourages funguses.

So, sadly, I finally decided to graft 95% of my tree over to other pear cultivars. Now I have a far less problematic tree with barely any of the problems listed above. Even the few remaining Winter Nelis twigs have less fungus. It’s unfortunate to have to give up on delicious Nelis pears, but Warren is also in my top 3 pears for taste, and is less trouble. Some say a newly planted Warren tree takes a year or so longer than others to start bearing. But there are other pears that are pretty darn good, don’t need long cold-storage, and don’t rot.

I guess if I were starting over and could only have one pear tree, I would plant a vigorous, fireblight resistant summer pear, like Harrow Sweet, so it would mature quickly, and then I’d also graft many other good pears to it–that way you’d get at least some good pears every year. Some goodies that grow here are Warren and Harrow sweet, Magness, Honeysweet, Seckel, Buttira Precoce Morettini (great early pear), and Dana’s Hovey (although those last three sometimes get fireblight–I’ve lost a couple of grafts. Oh, and a few branches of Winter Nelis :wink: Or you could start with a fireblight immune pear and graft others on."

I’m interested to hear others’ experiences with this pear!