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Perry pear trees are growing in popularity as more and more people brew their own alcoholic drinks. It's far easier and quicker to make pear cider (more correctly known as Perry) than wine. Perry is simply the juice of pears turned into an alcoholic drink in a similar way as cider. To recommend one pear tree for this purpose is almost impossible because they do taste differently depending on the variety. Use the guide below though to select a a variety which will suit your taste buds.

WHAT ARE THE ORIGINS OF PERRY PEAR TREES


In the UK there is a difference between Perry and pear cider. True Perry is made from very astringent (sharp and acidic) pears and it takes several months to mature it properly and involves blending several varieties (none of them eating pears) to make a dry, slightly sparkling drink. In its height of popularity during the 1600s and 1700s the art was perfected to such a degree that Perry was considered to be superior to the best wines. Pear cider on the other hand often uses the juice from both Perry eating and other types of pears and the process can be accomplished in a month or so. Both Perry and pear cider have been made for thousands of years.

The modern types of eating and cooking pears, alongside true Perry pears, are varieties of Pyrus communis. Perry pear trees however have come from crosses of the older and more traditional varieties which have evolved much more slowly over the centuries. They are in general varieties which have not changed greatly over the last 450 years.

It's important to stress that there is a lot of rubbish written about making Perry, the process is almost held up to be an impossible ideal for the amateur. The truth is, it is an impossible ideal for the amateur to produce a top class Perry at the current time. To do so, according to the available literature, would be akin to Jo Bloggs producing a top class champagne, it's never going to happen!

But don't let that put you off, if you use the juice from a good variety of Perry pear you can make a drink which is far more satisfying to taste than most of the canned, bottled or draught pear cider sold today. It's the same as it always was 500 years ago, local villagers with only limited experience, brewed using pear juice and it tasted excellent - they never attempted to brew Perry to champagne standards.

VARIETIES OF PERRY PEAR TREES


The list below with descriptions of Perry pear trees is by no means exhaustive but it does list most of the varieties which are commonly available in the UK. Fanatics who are interested in varieties which can only be sourced abroad should look elsewhere, this article is about the practical side of Perry trees in the UK.

BARNET PERRY PEAR


If you want to make a light Perry with a low alcohol content and a medium sweet taste then Barnet is a good choice. Originates from near Gloucester and dates back to 1800s.


CHARACTERISTICS OF THE BARNET PEAR TREE


The main characteristics of this variety can be summarised as follows:
  • Self-sterile and in pollination group 3. It will require a suitable pollination partner nearby which includes the following:
     
    • Concorde
    • Conference
    • Hendre Huffcap
    • Mooncroft
    • Moonglow
    • Packham's Triumph
    • Sensation
    • Thorn
    • Williams Bon Chretien
    •  Other varieties in pollination groups 2 and 4 will make acceptable pollination partners as well.

  • Produces a good crop of pears.
     
  • Begins to crop earlier than average
     
  • Low acid and tannin, a very easy drinking, medium sweet Perry
     
  • Low alcohol content (S. G. 1052)
     
  • Ugly, dumpy and relatively small fruits
     
  • Grows into a columnar shape with a main trunk and branches which often grow in what can only be described a rather "wobbly" fashion. Unusual!
     
  • Fruits are produced mid season and occasionally miss a season.
     
  • Produces fruit earlier than average
     
  • Barnet is available from the following fruit tree nurseries (list is not exhaustive):
     

BLAKENEY RED PERRY PEAR


Probably the best known of all the Perry pear trees, this variety will enable you to make a drink you will be proud of. For several centuries it has been the most popular variety used in making Perry and derives from the village of Blakeney near Gloucester.



PARENTS AND BACKGROUND


The parents are not known, this variety dates back at least to the early 1600s. In centuries past it was also used as a cooking pear.


CHARACTERISTICS OF THE BLAKENEY RED PEAR TREE


The main characteristics of this variety can be summarised as follows:
  • Self-sterile and in pollination group 3. It will require a suitable pollination partner nearby which includes the following:
     
    • Barnet
    • Beth
    • Beurre Hardy
    • Brandy
    • Brown Bess (triploid)
    • Butt
    • Concorde
    • Conference
    • Hendre Huffcap
    • Mooncroft
    • Moonglow
    • Packham's Triumph
    • Sensation
    • Thorn
    • Williams Bon Chretien
    •  Other varieties in pollination groups 2 and 4 will make acceptable pollination partners as well.

  • Reliably crops annually and produces lots of pears.
     
  • Excellent for making a single-variety Perry. Medium acidity and tannin.
     
  • Medium alcohol content (S. G. 1056)
     
  • Attractive fruit which is green and red-flushed on the side facing the sun. Fruit is larger than average.
     
  • Very easy to grow with almost no care needed.
     
  • Fruits are produced mid season.
     
  • Takes a year or two longer than average before producing fruit.
     
  • Blakeney Red is available from the following fruit tree nurseries (list is not exhaustive):
     

BRANDY PERRY PEAR


Probably the best known of all the Perry pear trees, this variety will enable you to make a drink you will be proud of. For several centuries it has been the most popular variety used in making Perry and derives from the village of Blakeney near Gloucester.



PARENTS AND BACKGROUND


The parents are not known, dates back to 1790s.


CHARACTERISTICS OF THE BRANDY PEAR TREE


The main characteristics of this variety can be summarised as follows:
  • Self-sterile and in pollination group 3. It will require a suitable pollination partner nearby which includes the following:
     
    • Concorde
    • Conference
    • Hendre Huffcap
    • Mooncroft
    • Moonglow
    • Packham's Triumph
    • Sensation
    • Thorn
    • Williams Bon Chretien
    •  Other varieties in pollination groups 2 and 4 will make acceptable pollination partners as well.

  • Produces lots of pears. Mature tree size is smaller than average.
     
  • Medium acidity and low tannin.
     
  • One of the highest for alcohol content (S. G. 1069). Makes a decent Perry as a single variety but definitely benefits from blending with pears of a deeper flavour. The colour of the juice is darker than average.
     
  • Attractive fruit which is green and red-flushed on the side facing the sun. Fruit is average size
     
  • Fruits are produced mid to late season. Can often miss producing a crop after a previous good year.
     
  • Begins to crop earlier than average
     
  • Brandy is available from the following fruit tree nurseries (list is not exhaustive):
     

JUDGE AMPHLETT PERRY PEAR


Named after a real judge in Worcestershire.



PARENTS AND BACKGROUND


The parents are not known, 1800s.


CHARACTERISTICS OF JUDGE AMPHLETT PEAR TREE


The main characteristics of this variety can be summarised as follows:
  • Self-sterile and in pollination group 1. It will require a suitable pollination partner nearby.
     
  • Takes longer than average to begin producing fruit but then produces lots of fruit in the correct conditions.. Mature tree size is average size..
     
  • The flowers can often be damaged by frosts, a tree for warmer, well protected areas.
     
  • Medium acidity and low tannin.
     
  • Medium alcohol content (S. G. 1054). Makes a decent Perry as a single variety and is currently commercially produced. See reviews of Hecks Judge Amphlett Perry.
     
  • Average sized yellow-green fruit when ripe.
     
  • Fruits are produced mid season.
     
  • Begins to crop later than average
     
  • Judge Amphlett is available from the following fruit tree nurseries (list is not exhaustive):
     

YELLOW HUFFCAP PERRY PEAR


A variety which should really only be grown in very large gardens or orchards.

PARENTS AND BACKGROUND


The parents are not known, dates back to at least the 1700s. Huffcaps are Perry pear trees with fruits of an elongated round shape, this variety is probably the parent of them all.


CHARACTERISTICS OF THE YELLOW HUFFCAP PEAR TREE


The main characteristics of this variety can be summarised as follows:
  • Self-sterile and in pollination group 3. It will require a suitable pollination partner nearby which includes the following:
     
    • Concorde
    • Conference
    • Hendre Huffcap
    • Mooncroft
    • Moonglow
    • Packham's Triumph
    • Sensation
    • Thorn
    • Williams Bon Chretien
    •  Other varieties in pollination groups 2 and 4 will make acceptable pollination partners as well.

  • Takes longer than average to begin producing fruit but then produces lots of fruit. Mature tree size is larger than average size..
     
  • Medium acidity and low tannin.
     
  • Medium to high alcohol content. Makes a good Perry as a single variety.
     
  • Average sized yellow-green fruit when ripe. The fruits need to be shaken from the tree when under-ripe, quite a task for such a large tree.
     
  • Fruits are produced mid season.
     
  • Begins to crop later than average, can produce fruit only every other year
     
  • Yellow Huffcap is available from the following fruit tree nurseries (list is not exhaustive):
     

HOW TO GROW PERRY PEAR TREES


Perry pear trees are planted exactly the same as other pear trees. They prefer to grown on deep loam soils if they are to grow to their full potential. However they will also grow well on sandy and clay soils. Some are of the opinion that the quality of the pears is better when grown on light soil.

As far as pruning goes, leave them to their own devices and many of trees will grow so large that pruning is not possible. They need no feeding and certainly additional nitrogen is not recommended. The roots of large trees go down so deep and far that feeding is not realistically effective.

The final height and spread of a mature (twenty year old) Perry pear tree will depend on the variety,  rootstock used, soil and growing conditions. Averages are as follows:

  1. Quince A rootstock (semi-dwarfing) 4m to 5m (17ft to 20ft)
     
  2. Pyrodwarf rootstock 5m + (20ft)
     
  3. Pyrus c. rootstock (natural size) 6m to 15m (19ft to 48ft)

More information about growing pear trees including planting, feeding, watering, mulching, harvesting and pruning can be found on our page here.

COMMENTS / QUESTIONS LEFT BY OUR READERS

Date: 1 November 2016 From: Philip A
QUESTION: They showed a very old Perry Tree on Country File today and said it was the last Perry Tree of it's variety in an old Manor house somewhere in Herefordshire or Gloucestershire. Do you know the name and where it is?

ANSWER: It's a Waterlugg (possibly WaterLugg) Perry Tree. It is the only one in the world. It is at Hellens Manor, Much Marcle, Herefordshire. It's on a long avenue was planted in 1702 to commemorate Queen Anne.
 


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