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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.