Pears Best Ripened Off the Tree
One advantage to growing your own fruit trees is that you can get tree-ripened
fruit, a real rarity in the grocery store. But, unlike other fruits, pears
will reach their best quality when ripened off the tree.
When left to ripen on the tree, most cultivars of pears leave something
to be desired in terms of texture and flavor. Tree-ripened pears often
turn soft and brown at the core and have an excessively grainy texture.
There are several indicators that help you determine when to begin harvesting
pears. The most obvious sign is a color change. Pick pears when their
color changes from a dark- to light- or yellowish-green, but before they
are fully yellow. The fruit should be relatively firm. The small dots
on the skin, called lenticels, should turn from whitish to corky brown.
Mature fruit will separate easily from its spur by lifting and twisting.
Slice open a fruit to check the seeds inside. The seed coats should have
turned from white to brown. Fruit on heavily loaded trees usually mature
a little slower.
Mature pears should ripen within a few days, if stored at 60-70 F and
high relative humidity (80-85 percent). Pears will ripen even faster if
stored with other pears in a closed container, such as a paper sack. Ripening
fruit gives off a gas called ethylene, which in turn stimulates further
ripening. Ripened pears should "give a bit" when pressed near
the stem end.
If longer-term storage is desired, chill the pears to 32-35 F as soon
as possible after harvesting. Perforated plastic bags can be used to keep
relative humidity high. Be careful not to bruise or puncture the fruit,
as injuries provide an entry for decay organisms. Although different cultivars
of pears vary in their maximum storage time, most can be held from two
to four months under ideal conditions.