Juicy Japanese Nashi are a delightful fruit which ripen in the Fall season in Japan. The fruit is also known elsewhere as Japanese Pear, Asian Pear, Chinese Pear, Korean Pear or Apple Pear.
At this time of year when cold Winter winds are still blowing, Nashi fruit trees in Japan remain bare and without flowers, fruit or leaves. Orchard farmers’ preparations for a perfect crop of juicy Nashi from the heavily budded branches however, have already begun.
Production of any crop of high quality requires a huge investment of time, skill and patience on the part of the grower. Nashi growing, due to the uses and often sacred significance of the fruit in Japan, takes this concept of attention to quality a step further. Harvested fruit is expected to reflect near perfection in appearance, size and taste when harvested from orchards and presented to consumers in Japanese supermarkets.
Even in Winter, Nashi orchards are kept in a very ordered and precise manner. Matured trees are carefully trained over years onto trellises and head-high wires that support the spreading branches. Well established management routines ensuring quality fruit development run throughout the year.
Pruning after harvest encourages each year’s new bud loaded branches to tower skywards from the support trellis. These new branches produce the sweetest and best quality fruit as they have the most direct lines of nutrient and sugar supply from roots and leaves.
In order to improve production and access to developing fruit, Winter orchard tasks see every individual new branch carefully bent back from its skyward trajectory and tied onto the supporting trellis wires. This allows the branches to bare heavy loadings without fear of breakage and a reduced chance of wind damage to individual fruit.
Training the new shoots back onto the trellis requires that the bark at the base of each of the new branches be slit longitudinally with a trimmer knife. The long string of dormant buds is then carefully maneuvered downwards towards the trellis, ensuring the internal structure of the branch is not snapped or damaged. The branches are then securely tied down to the support wires of the trellis and the initial cut in the bark is wrapped with grafting tape to reduce the potential for disease while the bark heals.
As mundane and monotonous as this Winter task may be for fruit farmers, it is an essential step for ensuring long term, quality production.
As the flowers, leaves and eventually fruit develop, the chains of immature Nashi along the branches become accessible to workers from below the trellis. Individual fruit receive careful attention throughout the year.
Once developed, all Nashi fruit on the trees will be covered with light, breathable bags and netting to protect the skins from sunburn, wind and other blemish hazards. Over-head netting is also available above the orchards to help protect the crops from birds and a ravenous menagerie of Summer insects.
Quality is the number one consideration in Nashi production and sales. The premium Nashi market brings high prices to those willing to devote resources and skills to achieve the high standards demanded by supermarkets and consumers.
Supermarket shelve prices for Nashi can be as high as 600-1000 yen (approx $6.50-$10.50) per fruit. Usually even higher for “gift packed” fruit that are offered as part of Japan’s cultural gift giving practices.
With the new growth branches of the orchard tended to, farmers will be happy to see the returning warmth of Spring bring the trees back into full bloom and foliage in the few short weeks ahead.