Sugar in a pear

Seckel European Pear Tree

Also known as Sugar Pear, the Seckel European Pear Tree is a delightful and productive variety prized by Pear lovers everywhere. Extremely sweet and and juicy, Seckel Pear fruit features buttery smooth, aromatic, flavorful flesh.

Latin Name: Pyrus communis
Site and Soil: European Pears like full to 1/2 day sun and well-drained soil.
Rootstock Description: A dwarfing rootstock for European Pears, OHxF 513 produces trees 10-12 ft. in height.
Pollination Requirements: European Pears need another variety nearby for cross-pollination. Our Asian Pear varieties can also be used as pollinators.
Hardiness: European Pears are hardy to minus 25°F. or below.
Bearing Age: 2-3 years after planting.
Size at Maturity: 10-12 ft. in height.
Bloom Time: April
Ripening Time:
Yield: 50+ lbs.
Pests & Diseases: Our European Pear varieties are generally quite disease resistant and easy to grow. Except for occasional problems with Codling Moth, we have not seen significant insect damage on our varieties.
USDA Zone: 4
Sunset Western Zone: 2-11, 14-18
Sunset Northeast Zone: 32, 34-41

Pyrus ‘Seckel’ Trees: What Is A Seckel Pear Tree

If you are thinking of adding a pear tree to the home orchard, take a look at Seckel sugar pears. They are the only native American pear grown commercially. What is a Seckel pear tree? It’s a type of fruit tree that produces fruit so sweet they are called Seckel sugar pears. Read on for more information about Pyrus communis ‘Seckel’ trees.

Seckel Pear Information

The vast majority of pear trees available in commerce are cultivars imported from Europe. But one type of pear tree, Pyrus ‘Seckel’ trees, started from a wild seedling in Pennsylvania. This type of pear, pronounced SEK-el, is a variety of fruit tree that grows tiny, bell-shaped pears that are very sweet.

According to Seckel pear information, the harvest period starts in September and lasts until February. The pears can last up to five

months in storage. Seckel sugar pears are considered dessert pears. They are small but chubby, with rounded, olive green bodies and short necks and stems. Those growing pear Seckel trees find the fruit to be snack size. You can tuck a few Seckel sugar pears into a lunchbox but you can also can them whole or use them in cooking.

Seckel trees are easy to grow. They are cold hardy and, in fact, grow best in cool regions. The trees thrive in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5 through 8.

Growing Seckel Pears

If you live in a region with an appropriate climate, it’s not hard to start growing Seckel pears. Like all pear trees, Seckel requires a full sun location to produce an abundant crop.

When picking a planting location, remember that that mature standard-size trees grow to 20 feet (6 m.) tall and 13 feet (4 m.) wide. Dwarf varieties top out at half that height and width. Be sure to allow sufficient space for your Seckel trees to thrive.

Plant these trees in loamy soil. It is very important to provide them with soil that drains well since the trees won’t do well in wet locations. They do best if the soil pH is between 6 and 7.

Seckel pear trees do need another variety nearby in order to fruit. Good choices as pollinators include Starking, Delicious or Moonglow.

When you are growing these pears, you won’t have to worry about fire blight. The trees are resistant to this disease.

IN SEASON: In pairing them with other foods, restraint allows the fruit’s attributes to glow


Special to The Oregonian

My wife grows a yellow rose called Michelangelo, which has a scent that is lilting and subtle rather than a mallet to the forehead like some other varieties. Its beguiling restraint reminds me of Seckel pears, which have a delicate sweetness in their firm flesh.

This dessert fruit pairs deliciously with chocolate or young manchego cheese. The key is to choose partners that enhance the pear without overwhelming it. A Bartlett may be able to handle Rogue River Blue, but a Seckel would be smothered.

Diminutive Seckels are cute, like baby pears. But they shouldn’t be purchased as a mere ornament. The Seckel eats well out of hand and enjoys a bit of fuss and dressing up, too. Try them poached or roasted with white wine, honey and spices.

Look for:

The short, tubby fruit is 2 1/2 to 3 inches long and 1 1/2 to 2 inches in girth at its bell. The smooth skin is olive green with a glossy red blush that may cover nearly the entire pear. As the Seckel ripens, the olive-colored skin takes on a matte finish and the red darkens. Although the fruit is small, it grows on a robust, woody stem, which should be present on the pear when purchased. Be wary, in fact, of fruit without stems because decay will quickly set in where the interior is exposed to oxygen. The recessed blossom end puckers a bit but, since pears ripen from the inside out, that is of little consequence.

Check the neck to determine if the fruit is ready or gone by. Gently grasp the neck below the stem, making a circle with your thumb and forefinger. Exert gentle pressure to see if the fruit will yield slightly. Seckel pears eat best on the firm side. Refrain from pinching the fruit; unlike your sweetie’s cheek, the Seckel will bruise even when gently pinched.

Some chafing may be apparent where a pear has rubbed against other fruit on the tree. A few marks smaller than a pencil eraser are fine, but more than that, or blackened streaks, would move me to pass on that piece of fruit. Similarly, a softened surface or wizened stem ends are conditions that would prompt me to look for something else.


Harvest is in mid-September with excellent fruit available into December. Most of the Seckel crop disappears from retail shelves by the new year because its small size makes long-term storage techniques too expensive.

To store:

The Seckel pear holds best in the coldest part of the fridge where, depending on how ripe it was at purchase, it will keep for two to seven days. To ripen it, leave it at room temperature for two to four days. But keep in mind you cannot ripen a Seckel pear and then stick it back in the fridge to hold for a few days. It will turn mushy almost at once.

Note, too, that condensation forms on fruit just out of the fridge, and moisture encourages decay. Piling cold fruit in a bowl increases its chance of rotting. Pull fruit out of storage only in amounts you will use.

Basic preparation:

In my experience, a cut Seckel does not immediately turn brown from oxidation. Still, if you want to be sure it won’t brown, you can brush the surface of the exposed flesh with a solution of 1 cup water to 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice. If you choose to dunk it in the lemon-water mixture, leave it in only 30 seconds or so. Water will do no favors for the texture of a pear’s flesh.

Try poaching half a dozen lightly peeled Seckels, stems on, in a small glass baking dish with a half cup each of water and late harvest Willamette Valley muscat wine mixed in the bottom. Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes, basting three to four times. Remove to a warm plate, spoon a little pan juice over the pear and offer a dollop of vanilla bean ice cream alongside. Serve with a knife and fork. Pretty, pretty easy and pretty darn good.

Pete Petersen

is a Portland produce expert. Reach him at

Whether you are calorie conscious, looking for more ways to improve your diet for health, or just plain love a sweet snack, include fresh pears on all counts. A healthy diet is one that includes at least 5 servings of fresh fruits and vegetables daily!

A Sweet Alternative

A medium sized pear, weighing about 166 grams, contains only 100 calories. Levulose, the sweetest of known natural sugars, is found to a greater extent in fresh pears than any other fruit!

Wash and Eat

There’s no need to peel a pear… their tender, edible skin is an additional source of fiber. A medium sized pear provides 4 grams of fiber, or 16% of the recommended daily value. Always wash all fresh fruits and vegetables before serving.

More About Pears & Nutrition Fiber:

Fresh pears offer dietary fiber, much of it in the form of Pectin. A pear weighing 166 grams provides 2.32 grams of crude fiber, and 4 grams of dietary fiber, of which 41% is pectin. Fiber contains no calories, and is a necessary element of a healthy diet, helping to sustain blood sugar levels and promoting regularity. High fiber diets may also help reduce the risk of colon cancer and can help reduce serum cholesterol. Pears are a good source of natural fiber.

  • Potassium: Fresh pears offer potassium; 210 mg in a medium size pear. Although it is an element lost easily through dehydration or perspiration brought on by active lifestyles or strenuous exercise, Potassium is necessary for maintaining heartbeat, muscle contraction, nerve transmission, as well as carbohydrate and protein metabolism. Replenish potassium by eating fresh vegetables, fruits or legumes containing high potassium content. Pears are an excellent choice.
  • Vitamin C: Fresh pears contain ascorbic acid, or Vitamin C. One medium size pear provides 7 mg, or 11% of the RDA for Vitamin C. As one of the antioxidant vitamins, Vitamin C is essential for normal metabolism and tissue repair, helping prevent free radical damage that are destructive by-products of the body’s metabolic process. Vitamin C promotes healing of cuts and bruises and helps guard against a number of infectious diseases. Fresh pears are a good source for Vitamin C.

A Healthy Choice:

Fresh pears also have no cholesterol, sodium, or saturated fat. They offer a natural, quick source of energy, due largely to high amounts of two monosacharides: fructose and glucose. A pear is a nutrient dense food, providing more nutrients per calorie, than calories per nutrient. Carbohydrates make up 98% of the energy provided by a pear, and carbohydrates are helpful in weight reduction diets since they contain half as many calories as fat.

Fresh Pears Have No Sodium

A diet high in sodium is a risk factor for osteoporosis, can upset the body’s fluid balance, and can contribute to hypertension (high blood pressure). Children should be aware of this early in life when nutritional habits are being formed. Pears contain no sodium.

Fresh Pears Have No Saturated Fat

Saturated fat contributes to obesity and cholesterol in the body, which in turn contributes to coronary disease, and some forms of cancer. There is no saturated fat in fresh pears.

Can People with Diabetes Eat Pears?

You can eat pears if you have diabetes, as long as you keep your portions in mind and eat them along with other nutritious foods. Pears may satisfy your need for something sweet while also providing nutritional benefits.

General benefits of pears

Pears are a nutrient- and vitamin-rich food that have many health benefits, including:

  • fighting inflammation
  • serving as an antihyperglycemic
  • helping with digestion

There are more than a thousand types of pears, but you’re likely to see only a fraction of these available for sale. Some of the most popular types of pears for food consumption include:

  • Bartlett
  • Bosc
  • D’Anjou

Asian pears, which resemble the texture of apples, are another common type. Some foods labeled as “pears” aren’t actually part of the same genus. Prickly pear is a type of cactus. Balsam pear is also known as bitter melon.

On average, a person consumes almost three pounds of fresh pears annually.

Nutritional benefits of pears

According to the USDA FoodData Central database, a medium-sized pear contains:

  • 101 calories
  • 27 grams (g) of carbohydrates
  • 5.5 g of fiber (71 percent of the fiber is insoluble, and 29 percent is soluble)
  • 7.65 g of vitamin C
  • 206 milligrams (mg) of potassium

Pears also contain antioxidants, fructose, and sorbitol.

A significant amount of nutrition from pears is found on the skin. Peeling a pear can decrease phonologic and ascorbic acid by 25 percent.

Balsam pear, or bitter melon, isn’t a typical pear, but it may be of interest to those with diabetes because of certain health benefits. It contains the following vitamins:

  • C
  • A
  • E
  • B-1
  • B-2
  • B-3
  • B-9

It also has minerals like potassium, calcium, and zinc. The fruit contains 241 calories per 100 g.

Prickly pear cactus is fibrous and contains antioxidants and carotenoids.

Benefits for people with diabetes

There are many studies available linking health benefits to pears, particularly for those with diabetes or at risk for diabetes.

One study examined thousands of people with a risk of type 2 diabetes and found that foods rich in anthocyanin, including pears, lowered risk of type 2 diabetes.

The consumption of whole fruits versus other types of pear products may be key in maximizing their health benefits for those at risk for diabetes. A study found that consuming whole fruits, like pears, lowered the risk of type 2 diabetes as opposed to consuming them as juice.

Research on pear consumption among people at risk for developing type 2 diabetes found that eating apples and pears reduced the risk by 18 percent.

Consuming pears along with maintaining a healthy diet may help control early-stage diabetes as well.

One study found that Bartlett and Starkrimson pears could help prevent and manage type 2 diabetes when consumed as a whole fruit. The study connected the consumption of fruits to helping reduce the need for or dosage of diabetes medications in prediabetes and early diabetes stages.

Prickly pear and balsam pear

These plants aren’t part of the pear genus, but they’re referred to as “pear” and may be beneficial to those with diabetes.

Prickly pear is a cactus and known as a superfood by some. It may lower blood sugar levels in those with type 2 diabetes, but there isn’t a significant amount of research available about these benefits currently.

Balsam pear may be useful to those with diabetes in lowering blood glucose levels, but researchers need to conduct more clinical studies to confirm its benefits.

Pears have a special place in my childhood. When I was a kid, my family would pick pears from the trees in my aunt and uncle’s backyard. They always had more pears than they knew what to do with. My aunt made pear sauce, much like apple sauce, and my mom would can the pears to be eaten as compote. We would also eat them raw, when their so sweet, juicy, and buttery. I love them that way, but often enough the ones you buy in the market are not the best to eat out of hand. That’s when I like to poach pears to create a unique dessert.
Poaching pears in red wine turns them into glowing red jewels with tender and succulent flesh, flavored by the spiced poaching liquid. Spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom, or star anise can be added for exotic flavor. Citrus rind or tea leaves, like Earl Grey, also add flavor. The composition is up to you but the cooking method is simple. Once the pears are cooked, the poaching liquid can be reduced to create a syrup. Serve the pears with the reduction sauce and a dollop of crème fraîche for a very elegant dessert that would make a lovely ending to any dinner party.
Pears are such unique and beautiful fruit, available in many varieties. The Bosc variety is quite crisp and hard, though great eaten raw, it is even better when cooked or baked. Anjou is a juicy and less grainy variety that, in my opinion, is the best for eating raw. Bartlett pears, or William pears as they are known abroad, are great for eating raw as well as for cooking. Comice pears, which originate from France, are often paired with cheese for appetizers. The Seckel pear, the smallest commercially grown pear, is a variety originally from Pennsylvania, making it all-American. It is wonderful eaten raw, cooked, or baked even when slightly past its prime. I use them in this recipe for poached pears, but any variety would work well.
This fall I’m participating in A Way to Garden’s first Fall Fest, a continuation of Summer Fest. Every Wednesday a summer produce will be the theme. This Wednesday it’s pears. To participate all you have to do is something as simple as leaving a comment or linking to a favorite blog post or informational site. You can share gardening tips, recipes, and/or pictures. Visit the Fall Fest link for more information. Many other blogs are participating and it would be great to see how far the conversation goes.
My favorite recipes using pears:
Roasted Seckel Pear, Endive, and Radicchio Salad with Roquefort and Walnuts
Endive Leaves Filled with Bleu Cheese, Toasted Walnuts, Anjou Pear, and Bacon
Pear and Almond Cream Tart
Red Wine–Poached Seckel Pears
Note: If substituting regular size pears, use 4 pears in this recipe and cook for up to 20 minutes or until tender.
2 cups dry red wine
2 cups water
1/2 cup sugar
1 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
6 whole cloves
12 Seckel pears, peeled with stems attached, rubbed with lemon
crème fraîche or whipped cream, for serving
In a large saucepan, combine wine, water, sugar, star anise, cinnamon stick, and cloves. Bring to a boil. Once sugar is dissolved, add pears. Reduce to a simmer. Cook until pears are knife tender, about 10 minutes.
Using a slotted spoon, carefully remove pears to a plate lined with paper towels. Remove spices and discard. Bring poaching liquid to a boil, lower to a simmer, and cook until syrupy and reduced to 1 cup, about 30 minutes. Divide reduction sauce among 4 plates, place 3 pears in each plate, and dollop each with crème fraîche. Yield: 4 servings.

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