Pear trees, especially the old English varieties that would have been the subject of this proverb, take many years to mature and give fruit. You don’t plant them for yourself but for your heirs.
The full version of the phrase, which is a 17th century English proverb, is:
Walnuts and pears you plant for your heirs.
The sense of the altruistic nature of tree planting was also expressed by Thomas Fuller in his work Gnomologia, 1732:
“He that plants trees loves others beside himself.”
ht: The Phrase Finder
We’re thankful to whoever planted the trees in our yard. We have a few very mature trees compared to the rest of the neighborhood because our home was the original home surrounded by acres of land that were sold to a developer who put in houses. An old resident down the hill from us told me that our property was originally a nursery called Primrose Acres.
Look at all those pears we picked off our one tree. I know a small portion of them will be used to finish off my Smirntopf but what to do, what to do with all the rest. I’ll try to give some away. Maybe make some pear sauce. There are lots of lovely tarts and other things I can make but I’ll have to give those baked goods away as I’m restraining myself.
If you live close by and want some let me know.