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What is a Bartlett Pear?

By Greer Hed
Updated May 16, 2024
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A Bartlett pear, also known as a Williams pear, is one of the most commonly grown varieties of pear fruit in the United States. Bartlett pear trees are adaptable and fairly easy to grow, but also tend to prefer slightly warmer growing conditions than other pear tree varieties. Trees usually begin to bloom in April and the fruit is usually ready for harvest between the months of July and October. The fruits themselves are bell-shaped and turn from green to yellow when ripe. Generally well-known for their pleasant aroma and distinctive sweet flavor, Bartlett pears may be eaten fresh, baked, or canned.

The Bartlett pear is usually referred to as a Williams pear outside of the United States and Canada. A schoolmaster named Mr. John Stair from the village of Aldermaston in England first began growing the pears on his estate around the year 1770. The variety was later procured by a nursery worker whose name was Williams, hence the name given to the pear. Around the turn of the 19th century, the Williams pear was imported to the United States. A horticulturist from Roxbury, Massachusetts named Enoch Bartlett was unaware of the pear's existing name, so he chose to name the variety after himself.

Bartlett pear trees are semi-dwarf trees. Their small size makes them a good choice for planting in home gardens where space can be somewhat limited. The trees are self-pollinating and can adapt to many different soil conditions. It usually takes five to seven years for Bartlett pear trees to begin bearing fruit, but in good conditions the trees can continue to fruit for as long as 75 years. Bartlett pears do not ripen on the tree; instead, they are picked while they are still green.

This type of pear is ready for eating when its skin turns from green to yellow. The pears are often a favorite for eating raw, due to their juiciness and sweet flavor, but they are also a popular choice for canning because they maintain their flavor well when preserved. In the United States, pear puree, pear juice, and pear nectar are most frequently made from Bartlett pears. The pears are also used to flavor some types of brandy. Bartlett pears do not hold their shape when baked as well as some other pear varieties, such as the crisp Bosc pear, but they can be used for making pies, tarts, and other baked goods.

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Discussion Comments
By ahain — On Sep 06, 2011

Did you know that you can get a pear tree that can grow more than one kind of pear? My mom bought one, and I think it's pretty impressive that it gets anjou pears in September, Bartlett and Surecrop pears in August, and Bosc pears from September all the way to October.

They all look like their regular selves -- the pears look distinctly different depending on their types, and they grow in the right seasons for that variety of pear. The only difference seems to be that they all grow on the same tree.

My best guess was genetically modified trees, but mom assures me that it's natural. She says the tree is a graft, which is one tree trunk with cuttings from the other kinds of pears attached to it. I guess they grew together and now the tree can make all of the types of pears from the pieces that are attached. Weird, but really cool!

By gimbell — On Sep 06, 2011

@SkittisH - There are about 97 calories one average-sized Bartlett pear. Not much at all, especially when you consider how much nutrition value you get at the same time.

There are many health benefits of eating Bartlett pears -- and any pears, really. Here are a few.

1) They're packed with vitamins, especially vitamin C.

2) They're what you'd call hypoallergenic fruit. That is, next to nobody has food allergies to pears. Because of this, people feed them to babies a lot since they're very safe as a first kind of fruit to try.

3) Drinking pear juice is anti-inflammatory. Not only that, but some people believe it can also bring down a fever fast. Worth a try, I guess.

4) Pears have tons of dietary fiber -- almost 4 grams per pear. You should eat them raw for beast effect -- poached pears with no skins aren't going to have nearly as much nutritional benefits.

By SkittisH — On Sep 05, 2011

Are Bartlett pears a good fruit for eating fresh? What are the health benefits, if any, or eating them instead of some other fruit, like apples?

There's a public orchard in the town I've just moved to that has fruit trees free to pick from, and I noticed one of the biggest selections they have is pears. I figure this is either because the original creator of the orchard loved pears, or because there's some perk to eating them. So what gives?

Also, just out of curiosity, how many calories are in a Bartlett pear? Pears are sweet, and to me that usually means higher calories.

By malmal — On Sep 04, 2011

Thanks for this article -- lots of good, useful Bartlett pear tree facts in here. I looked this pear variety up after visiting my aunt, who grows mini fruit trees in pots in her house.

Her latest tree is a Bartlett pear. It looked right at home growing in a pot, and already had pears on the branches during my visit even though she hasn't had it more than a year. I think she might have bought it already at a certain age, though.

Anyway, my visit to my aunt's got to me to thinking about her mini Bartlett pear, particularly comparing the fruits on her pear tree to the Bartlett pears I see for sale sometimes in the supermarket. Her tree's pears are smaller. Is that because it's in a pot, or is the tree unhealthy? Is it healthy for a Bartlett pear to be grown in a pot?

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