Comice pear: pollination, harvest & more

Lisa
Lisa
Lisa
Lisa

I study agricultural sciences and am obsessed with being in nature. I love to spend my free time out in the fields or horse riding. Or you can find me at my raised bed in the garden, where I like to plant all kinds of crazy new vegetables.

Favourite fruit: apples
Favourite vegetables: courgettes and potatoes

Thanks to its delicious flavour, the ‘Comice’ pear is often called the “Queen of Pears”. Read on to find out what makes this variety so special!

Comice pear tree with fruits
The ‘Doyenné du comice’ pear tree is prized for its fruit [Photo: JohnatAPW/ Shutterstock.com]

The ‘Comice’ pear variety, also known as the ‘Doyenné du Comice’, combines its wonderful flavour with hardy growth. As such, although it does not produce a high yield, ‘Comice’ is as popular with commercial pear producers as it is with home gardeners. Here is everything you need to know about the famous ‘Comice’ pear.

‘Comice’ pear: profile

Synonym'Doyenné du Comice'
FruitLarge to very large; wide and cup-shaped
FlavourJuicy, sweet and tangy with delicious flavour
YieldNot very high
Harvest timeMid to end of October
Ripe to eatNovember
Shelf lifeCan be stored in a cool place until February
GrowthSemi-dwarf to vigorous; upright or wide
ClimatePrefers warm location
Pests and diseasesSusceptible to scab in poor locations, as well as fire blight, and various viral diseases

History and origin of the ‘Doyenné du Comice’

The ‘Doyenné du Comice’ pear tree was discovered by chance in 1840. Originally from the horticultural society’s garden in Angers, France, ‘Comice’ quickly found its way to England, and is now prized by both home gardeners and commercial farmers for its taste; a taste so good that, in 1894, the London Horticultural Journal described ‘Comice’ as the best pear in the world.

Doyenne du comice pear tree with ripe fruits
Large ‘Doyenné du Comice’ fruits, ready for harvesting [Photo: Sheryl Watson/ Shutterstock.com]

Characteristics and taste of ‘Comice’ pear

The ‘Comice’ pear tree produces large to very large fruit. The fruits are broad, cup shaped and uneven, with yellow-green skin. The skin is often touched with a faded, red-brown tone and many small spots called lenticels. The pear’s stalk is short, thick and woody, and is often surrounded by a fleshy bulge of pale brown russet. ‘Doyenné du Comice’ has medium firm, very juicy, white to yellow-white flesh that tastes both sweet and tangy, and has an excellent flavour.

Tips on growing and care

The ‘Doyenné du Comice’ pear tree grows just as well commercially, in orchards, as it does in the garden. It tends to develop upright or wide growth, and is topped with pyramidal, moderately dense branching. Depending on the rootstock, ‘Comice’ trees have medium to vigorous growth.

If you buy a pear tree from the garden centre, it is usually grafted onto a rootstock, which is the base and root portion of another tree. Quince or pear rootstock work well for ‘Comice’. In particular, dwarf-growing ‘Quince C’ is perfect for small gardens, but it can be more susceptible to wind, frost and some soil diseases than other rootstocks. As such, it will need a good location.

Tip: With the right care, dwarf ‘Comice’ trees can act as a natural trellis or fence!

Although ‘Comice’ grows well as a dwarf tree, it is also possible to cultivate a semi-dwarf or standard ‘Comice’ tree. To grow a large ‘Comice’ tree, it will still need grafting onto a rootstock. However, this time, a thick-trunked rootstock, like OHF 97, should be used. Such trees are much more robust than weaker-growing quince varieties.

‘Doyenné du Comice’ flowers medium-late to late, in April and May. It produces long-lasting, frost-tolerant blossoms that are pollinated by bees. ‘Comice’ pollinates well with varieties like ‘Bosc’, ‘Clapp’s Favourite’, ‘Beurre Hardy’, ‘Conference’, ‘Williams Christ’ and ‘Charneux’.

Insect on doyenne du comice pear flowers
The late blossoms are also a treat for many different insects [Photo: Gestiafoto/ Shutterstock.com]

‘Doyenné du Comice’ prefers a warm location and healthy, loose soil. Importantly, the quality of the soil greatly impacts the quality of the fruit. To improve soils that are too heavy or too light, mix in a high-quality, peat-free potting soil, like Plantura Organic All Purpose Compost. This will increase the soil’s ability to store nutrients and water, and will support air circulation.

Pruning ‘Comice’ can be tricky, because the tree tends not to branch well. It is best to cut the tip of branches, so that they continue to form new fruiting shoots even in old age. In particular, the tree’s main shoots can continue to grow fresh, fruiting wood for years, so do not prune them too aggressively! For more tips, check out our article dedicated to pear tree pruning.

Shaped comice pear tree cultivated on wall
The ‘Comice’ pear tree can also be cultivated as an espalier fruit tree [Photo: JohnatAPW/ Shutterstock.com]

‘Doyenné du Comice’ is susceptible to fire blight, several viruses, and, in poor locations, scab. As such, it is worth buying virus-tested or virus-free plants. Frost shouldn’t be an issue for the flowers because they bloom so late, and the tree as a whole can withstand temperatures down to -25°C.

‘Comice’ tends to produce a relatively low yield. And if it is subjected to a late frost or heavy pruning, it will become fruit biennially; producing wildly fluctuating yields each year. However, more contemporary varieties deliver more consistent yields.

Harvesting ‘Comice’ pears

‘Doyenné du Comice’ pears ripen late, in mid to late October and are ready to eat in November. The fruits will remain hanging in the tree, sheltered from the wind, until they are harvested. If you store them in a cool place after harvesting, they will keep well until December or January. In cold storage, ‘Comice’ pears last until February, making them a tasty winter fruit. The fruits do not wilt in storage but do become mushy when overripe.

Tip: The later you harvest a ‘Comice’ pear, the fuller its flavour. However, the earlier you harvest, the longer the pear can be stored.

Ripe comice pears being sold at the market
‘Doyenné du comice’ can often be found at the fruit market [Photo: hans engbers/ Shutterstock.com]

Fresh ‘Comice’ pears are popular, but the pears are also delicious as a compote, poached or even baked in a cake.

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