You-pick-’em Asian pears a hit at Eden Farm

Vikaas Shanker GateHouse Media Illinois
Kay and John Wagner of rural Chillicothe pick the plentiful Asian pears off the rows of trees that line the hillside at Eden Farm, a roadside you-pick-’em farm at 6420 E. Hart Lane just north of Chillicothe of Illinois Route 29. Shingo pears ripen in the fall, offering a sweeter, juicier pear than their Bosc or Bartlett cousins.

Sue Schwarz and her husband Lloyd left Eden Farm satisfied with more than 10 pounds of sweet, juicy shingo pears recently.

The Washington residents spent their afternoon picking the fruit from trees of the Chillicothe pear farm, 6420 E. Hart Lane, which is known for specializing in the Asian pear variety.

“It’s the flavor,” Sue Schwarz said.

Eden Farm is in pear-picking mode, allowing the public to come to the hillside farm and graze through trees, picking pears ranging from 2 to 5 inches in diameter.

People have the choice of filling a 10-pound bag for $15, a 20-to 25-pound bag for $20, a 40-to 45-pound bag for $35, and a box that can fit more than 60 pounds for $50. Visitors can eat pears on the farm for free. The farm is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week until Nov. 15.

Sue Schwarz knows about growing food from her experience running a farm in Gilson. But pear picking is a new and rewarding experience.

“We’ve picked apples but not so much pears,” Sue Schwarz said. “The grandkids will love them.”

She plans to use the pears to make pear pies, pear crisps and maybe pear jelly.

Eden Farm’s shingo pears are not your average supermarket variety. Besides being grown through organic means, shingo pears are juicier and sweeter than the more common Bartlett variety.

“The shape, it’s more like an apple,” longtime rural Chillicothe resident Kay Wagner said. “Very sweet.”

“(It) has been a couple of years since we’ve been picking. But it’s a good day out and we saw the advertisement,” said Wagner’s husband, John Wagner.

The Wagners have a couple pear trees in their yard, but the pears at Eden Farm were different. After Sanchez gave them a taste, they went picking and left with a full 10-pound bag.

The pear trees range from 6 to about 15 feet in height. But the fruit grows all over the trees, making picking accessible without ladders or other equipment.

The farm was started by Long Grove Presbyterian minister Byeong Ho Son and his wife, Kum Ok, when they bought the 140-acre plot of hillside land about nine years ago.

Their goal was to make the shingo pear, a staple in their native South Korea, a common variety in Illinois, as well as to grow other vegetables and create a retreat center for people of all religious denominations.

But in recent years, the Sons needed help taking care of the farm, according to farm manager James Chung.

Chung said while the farm today is primarily for pear growing and picking, next year he plans to hire local help to maintain the farm and introduce family activities like mazes.

About 1,500 people came last year and Chung is expecting more this year.

“Shingo pear is a very new thing for people,” Chung said. “As more people know about it, more people will come every year.”