All pears are naturally sweet when ripe, but a proper sugar pear is the fruit of the ‘Seckel’ pear tree, a strong-growing, blight-resistant variety winter-hardy as far north as Zone 5. About half the size of a Bartlett or Bosc, sugar pears start green, but show a reddish blush over russet skin at full maturity. Named for the 18th-century Pennsylvania farmer who introduced it, the fruit is very sweet with a spicy undertone, crisp when eaten out of hand and ideal for cooking or preserving.
Locate a pear tree carefully in the garden, choosing a sunny spot that’s sheltered from the wind. Plant one- or two-year-old saplings in early spring, in a deep, wide hole that’s abundantly supplied with organic matter in the form of compost and manure. The tree may be planted in the lawn but, if so, make sure that you leave a metre-wide circle of bare soil around it, mulching the ground with straw, lawn clippings, autumn leaves or aged sawdust or wood chips in order to suppress weeds, retain moisture and feed the roots over the course of time.
If rodents tend to be a problem in your garden, it’s a good idea to wrap a tree guard of some kind around the trunk to prevent any damage from animals. A weekly soaking during the growing months ensures that the small, perfect pears will grow as big as they can; and your patience at
harvest time will be rewarded with extra sweetness.