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Eden Valley Orchard Pears look to the Future with Pear Cider Production
Eden Valley Orchards was established March 17, 1885
by Joseph H. Stewart - Father of the Commercial Pear Industry
In February of 2017, EdenVale Winery located in the heart of the orchard property, released their first production of it's estate-grown pear cider. The 2016 vintage cider is crisp, dry and 100% organic. Fresh-pressed pears straight from our historic orchards, planted in 1885, were used to make this very unique and refreshing cider. No additional fruit juices or concentrates are used-- only the original estate fruit.
Eden Valley Orchards, born from an Oregon donation land claim in 1851, is now a destination facility rich in history and grace. This orchard, founded and planted by Joseph H. Stewart in March of 1885, is the birthplace of the United States commercial pear industry and a historical leader of innovative agriculture. The gracious mansion (now known as Voorhies Mansion) and picturesque property in the heart of pear country, is the "place and story" that anchors the Rogue Valley's agricultural history. Lying not far from railroad tracks and fruit packing plants that are emblematic of the shared bounty of the Rogue River Valley's pear industry, In many ways the surrounding scenery has not changed much since the first shipment of pears was sent East from this property in south Medford in the late 1800's.
Deeply imprinted on the area is the legacy of Joseph H. Stewart, Eden Valley’s founder who became the patriarch of Southern Oregon’s fruit industry. A prominent contemporary of Stewart’s remarked, “Every fruit tree in the Rogue River Valley will be a monument to his memory.” Indeed, two dozen of the pioneer’s original trees are still growing at Eden Valley Orchards, in its heritage orchard, and bud wood from his original orchard started trees on large orchards throughout the Valley.
The cider is available for purchase in 750 mL or 375 mL bottles. ORDER HERE
Article Published: Jacksonville Review 2017
2017 Grand Rapids International Cider and Perry Competition (GLINTCAP)
Silver Medal: 2016 Pear Cider
2017 Oregon Wine Awards
Silver Medal: 2016 Pear Cider
Part I: History of Pears
NW Pear Bureau USA:
Pears are one of the world's oldest cultivated and beloved fruits. In 5,000 B.C., Feng Li, a Chinese diplomat, abandoned his responsibilities when he became consumed by grafting peaches, almonds, persimmons, pears and apples as a commercial venture. In The Odyssey, the Greek poet laureate Homer lauds pears as a "gift of the gods." Pomona, goddess of fruit, was a cherished member of the Roman Pantheon and Roman farmers documented extensive pear growing and grafting techniques. Thanks to their versatility and long storage life, pears were a valuable and much-desired commodity among the trading routes of the ancient world. Evident in the works of Renaissance Masters, pears have long been an elegant still-life muse for artists. In the 17th century a great flourishing of modern pear variety cultivation began taking place in Europe. And in popular culture, the pear tree was immortalized alongside a partridge in the 18th-century Christmas carol, The Twelve Days of Christmas.
Early colonists brought the first pear trees to America's eastern settlements where they thrived until crop blights proved too severe to sustain widespread cultivation. Fortunately, the pear trees brought west to Oregon and Washington by pioneers in the 1800's thrived in the unique agricultural conditions found in the Pacific Northwest. Today's Northwest pear varieties are the same or similar to those first cultivated in France and Belgium where they were prized for their delicate flavor, buttery texture, and long storage life.
As more sophisticated irrigation and growing techniques developed during the past century, pear orchards flourished dramatically in the Northwest's river valley regions located in a serpentine sprawl from Northern Central Washington to Central Southern Oregon.
Today, pear orchards in Oregon and Washington are as specialized as the regions that support them. Organic, commercial and multi-generation family orchards all contribute high-quality fruit to the Northwest's fresh pear industry. Consumer interest and enjoyment of Northwest pears grows each year. Thanks to advancements in Controlled Atmosphere (CA) storage technology, fresh USA Pears are available to consumers nearly year-round.
The first arrival of pear trees to Oregon and Washington came with the pioneers. These trees found their way to the region by way of the Lewis and Clark Trail.
Pioneers that settled along the Columbia River in Oregon’s Hood River Valley, found ideal growing conditions for their pear trees. Vast orchards grow there today, in the shadow of majestic Mt. Hood. Volcanic soil, abundant water, warm days and cool nights combine to create the perfect conditions for growing the varieties found in Oregon.
The other principal growing area in Oregon is the Rogue River valley, around Medford in the Southeastern part of the state. Medford, near the end of the Cascade Mountain Range, also enjoys the rich volcanic soil and European-like weather that nurture the world’s most beautiful, sweet, and juicy pears.
The Cascade Range is part of the Ring of Fire, the mountains that ring the Pacific Rim. Many of the Northwest’s snow-capped peaks are dormant or still active volcanoes. The principal growing areas in the region are literally in the shadow of these mountains, which can rise over 11,000 feet above sea level.
Settlers in the shadows of Washington’s Cascade Range enjoyed similar success. With orchards dating back to the 1850’s, the Wenatchee Valley is an abundant producer of all USA Pear varieties. The rugged north central Washington region is exceptionally proud of its consistency of producing high-quality pears known the world over.
In central Washington’s Yakima Valley, the light, fertile soil of the agricultural-rich region supports thousands of acres of Northwest pear trees. The growing regions in Washington share their volcanic influences from Mt. Baker, Mt. Rainier, Mt. Adams and Mt. St. Helens.
With these abundant crops, fresh pears naturally became a major part of Northwest cooking, which takes the finest local ingredients and combines them in delicious complimentary style. The versatile and delicate flavor of pears enhances the area’s bountiful fresh seafood and regional wines. Chefs in the Pacific Northwest and around the world use pears for all parts of the menu, from appetizers to entrees to desserts.
Due to this rich history and its positive impact on the state’s economy, the State of Oregon named the pear Oregon’s Official State Fruit. In addition, the USDA annually recognizes the pear by declaring the month of December as National Pear Month. The pear is indeed a Northwest treasure!
USA Pear Crop Statistics
- There are currently more than 1,600 pear growers in Oregon and Washington
- Pears are Oregon's number one tree fruit crop, its #9 agricultural commodity, and Oregon’s Official State Fruit
- Oregon's total pear production ranks 3rd overall in the United States and 2nd in terms of fresh pear production
- Washington's fresh pear production is the largest in the United States
- In Washington State, pears are the third most valuable tree fruit crop behind apples and sweet cherries, and the tenth most valuable agricultural commodity overall
- Combined annual fresh pear (not canned) harvest for Washington and Oregon currently averages over 582,000 tons
- Washington and Oregon export about 35% of their fresh pear crop to more than 50 countries around the world.
- About a quarter of the overall pear crop is canned (not represented by USA Pears/Pear Bureau Northwest). Most canning pears are Bartletts, with 63% of this variety being used for canning and processing into juices, etc.
- In The Great Book of Pears, Barbara Jeanne Flores opens her pear history, saying, “Native to temperate Europe and Western Asia, pears (Pyrus communis) are one of the two dozen plants know to have been cultivated for over 4,000 years.” Pears probably originated in the South Caucasus, North Persia, or the Middle East.
- Janet Hazen in Pears: A Country Garden Cookbook suggests that pears were migrated into Europe and northern India by Aryan tribes from the Caucasus regions.
- Dried pears have been found in Ice Age cave dwellings excavated in Switzerland.
- Sumerians were the first to write about pears in 2750 B.C., describing a thick paste they made from it with thyme, figs, oil, and ale to be used as a poultice applied to the body.
- The pear was a part of Greek life, appearing in Greek mythology as being sacred to Hera and Aphrodite. Greek poet Homer called pears “the fruit of the gods” in when he lived around 850 B.C. In the 4th Century, Aristotle’s student Theophrastus wrote a detailed report on how to propagate pears.
- The Romans had six varieties of pears being cultivated in 100 BC. Roman Historian Pliny wrote about 40 varieties in 200 AD, cautioning that “pears are harmful to eat raw, but good boiled with honey.” Maybe pears were too hard to eat raw? Anyway, Ben Watson adds that Pliny also stated that “Falernian pears were the best for making pear wine, and Palladius in the fourth century A.D described how to ferment pear juice, which was then called Castomoniale and apparently was esteemed more highly than apple wine by the Romans.”
- Watson agrees with the historian Tacitus that “the Romans appear to have spread the cultivation of pears into Gaul (France) and probably Britain… however, there is no definitive written record of pears in England until after the Norman Conquest of 1066.”
- During the Middle Ages, pears grew well in the warm climates of France and Italy and were considered a luxury as they were primarily grown in castle and monastery gardens.
- Britain established native pears, which was hard and bitter but made excellent perry, unlike the French dessert pears. These pears were sometimes referred to as the Choke Pears.
- Monks planted pear seeds to develop new pear breeds. During the Renaissance, Medici Grand Duke Cosimo II had 209 pear species.
- More pears varieties from France were imported to England by Henry VIII’s fruiter Richard Harris.
- In 1559, the first pear tree, a White Doyenné, was imported to the New World. While it was useful, pears were passed over for the more popular apple, partly because of their propagation by Johnny “Appleseed” Chapman. This is because most pear seeds are sterile, making them more difficult to propagate from seed as Chapman did. Also pears prefer milder climates and do not grow well on America’s East Coast.
- King Louis XIV of France loved Rousselet de Reims pears. The Versailles garden creator La Quintinye also loved pears, and wrote about growing them, having about 100 different varieties, one of which was the ancestor of today’s Comice. Pears at this time were not for the common folk.
- The Belgians began developing pears in the 18th century, developing 400 varieties including the Beurré d’Anjou and the Beurré Bosc we have in supermarkets today.
- Thomas Jefferson planted 1,000 pear, apple, cherry, plum apricot, and quince trees on his Monticello Estate between 1769 and 1814. Jefferson had lived in Paris as a diplomat, where he grew to love pears and brought them back to his estate, though he found them difficult to grow in Virginia’s climate, and found them inferior to Europe’s pears with the exception of the Seckel. Today, Monticello offers tours of the orchards mid-April through October, with fruit tastings scheduled in August.
- Flores tells this interesting story about developing a pear variety, “In , a British schoolmaster named Stair discovered [a] seedling in Berkshire, England. It was popularized by a nurseryman named Williams [and it was named after him]…” In 1797, it was imported by James Carter to be planted on an estate in Massachusetts for Thomas Brewer. “After Enoch Bartlett purchased the estate in 1817, he distributed the pear under his own name, Bartlett. Today, Bartlett is the most widely grown pear in the world and accounts for 70 percent of all United State commercial plantings.”
- Pears on the West Coast of North America took a different route. They were imported by the Spanish into Mexico, and brought north into California, Oregon, and Washington. In 1792, English explorer George Vancouver visited the Mission San Buenaventura garden in California and wrote, “Apples, pears, plums, figs, oranges, peaches and pomegranates… all these were flourishing in the greatest health and perfection though separated from the seaside by only two or three fields of corn” (page 12, Flores).
- After the California Gold Rush, farmers started planting European pears to feed the growing population, creating a boom in the 1800s. The oldest producing pear tree today was planted in 1810 at Mission San Juan Bautista. Markets remained full of local pears until World War II.
- In the mid-nineteenth century, North American East Coast pear orchards were devastated by the introduction of fireblight, probably introduced from Asian ornamentals.
- Flores talks about today’s pears in the United States, saying, “After [World War II], the small easily bruised heritage varieties [of California] were gradually eliminated in favor of a large pear that could be shipped, handled, and had a long shelf life: namely the Bartlett. The inland coastal valley of California, Oregon, and Washington became the largest pear growing area in the United States, growing 90 percent of the pear crop, mostly Bartletts. In the 1950s, the pear pack was destined for fruit cocktail and other syrupy can fillers, but today’s processed pears are more likely to end up as the base for a health juice, a flavored wine, or baby food.”
- Hazen claims that there are over 5,000 domestic pear varieties today grown in the world.
Spring 2017 Southern Oregon Magazine - "Orchards and Vines, Ciders & Wine, Oh My", by Lisa Manyon