- How to Ripen Pears
- Live farm fresh
- How to Pick & Ripen a Pear
- I zapped an underripe pear in the microwave. Will it work for other fruits?
- When Are Pears Ripe To Eat: Learn About Pear Tree Harvest Time
- When are Pears Ripe to Eat?
- Pear Tree Harvest Time
- How to Pick Pears
- Fall and Winter Pears – When to Pick
How to Ripen Pears
Pears are my latest fruit addiction. I love this fruit for its unique, grainy texture and sweet, juicy flavor. In fact, combining a ripe pear with gourmet cheese and crackers has turned into an easy and tasty appetizer (and admittedly, sometimes a dinner) at my house.
The most common question we get from people about pears is “how do you ripen them?” Indeed, ripening a pear can be tricky due to the fact that most pears do not change color as they ripen, and pears are typically close to – but not quite ripe – when you purchase them at the store.
Growers harvest pears once they are mature, but in the pear world, maturity means the fruit is not fully ripened. If growers allowed pears to ripen on the tree, the core of the fruit would breakdown, causing an unappetizing mushy or mealy texture when they arrived at grocery stores (and no one wants that!). Harvesting pears at the right pressures leads to fruit that will ripen to good quality. At Stemilt, we do just that and cool them immediately after harvest in order to deliver premium pears to your stores.
In this post, I’ll answer the common pear ripening question by showing you two methods for ripening pears at home. I’ll also share a simple strategy for determining when a pear is ripe and ready to eat.
How to Ripen Pears: In a Brown Paper Bag
If the pears you brought home from the store are still a little hard and not quite ripe, then you might want to try ripening them in a bag at room temperature. Cold temperatures slow down the ripening process, so storing ripe pears in the refrigerator is the best way to maintain quality. Like bananas and avocados, pears naturally release ethylene gas (a ripening hormone) as they ripen. Placing the pears in a brown paper bag keeps ethylene close to the fruit and speeds up ripening. Any bag would work, but paper is preferred over plastic as it allows the fruit to breathe.
How To Ripen A Pear With Other Ethylene-Producing Fruits
Another way to ripen pears is to place them next to fruits like bananas, avocados, or apples (perhaps in a fruit bowl). These fruits also give off ethylene gas, and the extra exposure to ethylene induces ripening in pears. To really speed up the pear ripening process, combine two ethylene producing fruits (such as bananas + pears) in a paper bag and leave the bag at room temperature. Don’t forget to check the pears often for ripeness if you use this method.
When Are Pears Ripe?
No matter which method of ripening you choose, you’ll want to know how to tell when a pear is ripe and ready to eat. Some pears, like the Bartlett variety, change color as they ripen (Bartlett goes from green to yellow), but many other pears, including d’Anjou, do not. To determine ripeness, hold the pear in the palm of your hand and then gently apply pressure into the neck of the pear with your thumb. Once the skin of the pear gives to that pressure (even if it gives slightly), it is ripe and ready to eat.
There is definitely a fine line when it comes to pear ripening (they can quickly go from underripe to overripe), and so it’s important to check the neck for ripeness daily, especially when you are following a method that speeds up ripening. Most pears should be ready to eat within a few days after purchase. Be sure to place ripe pears that you are not using in the refrigerator to maximize freshness.
Share with us! What is your preferred method for ripening pears? Is it different from the two methods described above?
Pears should be harvested when fully formed, but not ripe. Most years that time is early August for Bartletts, but this year everything seems to be early, so it’s important to watch your pears for when they are mature, says OSU master gardeners. This photo shows the first day of pear harvest at George Aubert Orchards Inc in Mt. Hood.
Summer begins with a season-long list of gardening questions. Get answers from Ask an Expert, an online question-and-answer tool from Oregon State University’s Extension Service. OSU Extension faculty and Master Gardeners reply to queries within two business days, usually less. To ask a question, simply go to the OSU Extension website and type in a question and the county where you live. Here are some questions asked by other gardeners. What’s yours?
Q: I have a Bartlett pear tree that has plenty of fruit. Most have a bit of blush on them, but do not drop when gently lifted. Some are already on the ground. Last year I waited too long to harvest them and all were mushy on the inside. Can you help me learn how to harvest them correctly? — Multnomah County
A: Harvesting pears is a little different from most fruit in that they must be picked before they are ripe. If they ripen on the tree, they ripen from the inside out so the inside becomes mushy before the outer area is ripe.
Pears should be harvested when fully formed, but not ripe. Most years that time is early August for Bartletts, but this year everything seems to be early, so it’s important to watch your pears for when they are mature.
Developing a feel for when to pick a pear will take a bit of trial and error, because the changes are subtle. There are four basic ways to determine maturity of a pear:
- Size and shape. Should be that of a ripe pear.
- Color. Check every couple of days and when the color yellows slightly, it’s ready to pick.
- Feel. A slight softening of the texture from very hard to firm.
- Ease of picking. Pears should twist off.
After harvest, pears should be cooled for a couple of days at least. To ripen them, bring the temperature up to 65 to 75 degrees. They should ripen in four to five days.
I would try a few pears you think are right, cool them for a couple of days, then ripen and see how they develop. You can certainly try that on dropped fruit. What have you got to lose? Once you have a method you can chill pears and ripen them at your pleasure.
Here are two articles on picking, storing and ripening pears: When to Pick and How to Ripen Pears to Perfection and Picking and Storing Apples and Pears. — Anne Schmidt, OSU master gardener volunteer
Q: Is it OK to trim individual branches from maple trees this time of year? I have a few branches that are hanging too low and would like to cut them off. The same is true for an ornamental plum tree. — Multnomah County
A: Light pruning works fine any time of the year, including early summer. Too much summer pruning, though, can damage a tree by restricting the energy production from a significant loss of leaves. Late summer pruning can result in vigorous growth that winter weather can damage, as the tree has not fully healed when cold weather comes.
Most major pruning is done in late winter because the tree is dormant and it’s easier to see the tree’s structure without leaves that obscure the form. The tree will respond with vigorous growth as spring arrives to replace the lost leaves.
Because of the reaction of the tree to the loss of a significant part of the canopy, you should not remove more than 30 percent of a tree in any given year.
The article, Prune to Keep Ornamental Shrubs Healthy, may help answer any other questions. — Anne Schmidt, OSU Extension master gardener volunteer
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Live farm fresh
How to Pick & Ripen a Pear
We’re harvesting some pears here at the farmstead and it got me to thinking about the “perfect” pear.
You know the kind…
As your teeth sink into it, the sweet juice runs down your chin and the texture is “just right” – not mealy or too hard.
Many times, that perfect pear is elusive…at least it was for me for most of my life.
But that is because until recently, I never really understood how a pear ripens.
It took having a pear tree of my own for me to learn how it all works.
In this post, I share some tips for picking the perfect pear (on the tree or at the grocery store) and how to get it to ripen to perfection.
How Pears Ripen:
Unlike other fruit, pears do NOT ripen properly when left on the tree.
They are one of the only fruits that must be picked unripe and allowed to ripen off the tree.
If left on the tree, a pear will over-ripen from the inside out and the center will be mush and rotten before the outside gets soft.
If you harvest them yourself, pears must be picked when they are within that magic window of time of being mature but unripe.
Mature means they are fully grown and staying on the tree further begins the breakdown process.
Ripe means the flesh is softened and the sugars are high.
So, you pick when the pear is mature (not ripe) and let it ripen off the tree.
The only exception to this is the Asian pear which does ripen on the tree and can be eaten immediately at harvest. So this post is about all other pears – not Asian.
How To Harvest Your Own Pears:
If you grow pears yourself, how do you know when they are mature enough to harvest?
It is actually pretty easy.
When a pear is ready to come off the tree, it will do so when you slightly twist or tip the fruit’s stem.
You simply hold the pear in your hand and rotate it slightly (1/4 turn) and if it comes right off…it’s ready.
Or you hold the pear in your hand and tip it horizontally and it will snap off if it is ready.
If it does not come off easily, you move on to the next fruit and give that one more time on the tree.
Don’t be tempted to pick them immature. They will not have the best texture or flavor.
How to Ripen a Homegrown Pear:
What I never knew (before having a tree of my own) was that many commercial pears are put into cold storage immediately after harvest before going to market.
I will explain why below, but first know…
This cold storage tip is NOT what you should do with store bought pears. A purchased pear should never go into the refrigerator. It should ripen on the counter because it is brought to market ready for you to take home, ripen and eat.
Cold storage is only something you would do if you are harvesting from your own tree.
Growers put pears into cold temperatures to not only give themselves more time to get the harvest to market, but ALSO to help with the ripening process on certain varieties.
Different pear varieties prefer different amounts of cold storage. European varieties can take the longest in cold storage and Asian pears require none.
So if you own a pear tree, you can briefly cool down any variety and it may help (won’t hurt) in giving you a nice ending texture/flavor.
Cold storage can be as simple as a week in a cool basement, the refrigerator or other cold area of the house.
For home cool down, 40 degrees is ideal. (I use a spare refrigerator adjust for storage.)
But here’s the thing…
If you don’t have a place for cold storage, don’t worry about it! Your homegrown pears will still ripen at room temperature.
The cold storage just gives you the most ideal and most consistent results. But it is not required to have a good pear.
After cold storage of homegrown pears, you can move on to ripening the pear on the counter as I have described below.
Choosing a Pear at the Store:
Pears at the store or farmer’s market should be picked firm and with the least amount of bruising.
In other words, you are picking out a mature pear that is unripe – just like it was at harvest time.
It is rare to find a pear ready for eating at the store. Most will still be hard as a rock.
You should expect to buy them in the firm state and bring them home to ripen.
How to Ripen a Pear at Home:
Ripening a pear can be as simple as sitting it on the counter top and checking it every day.
If you want to speed up the process, set a few apples or bananas next to the pears. The apples/bananas will give off ethylene gas which hastens the ripening process.
If you REALLY want to speed up the process, place the pear in a paper bag with an apple or banana and it will go even faster.
Do not refrigerate the pear until it reaches full ripeness.
Once ripe, you may place the pear in the refrigerator for a day or two to hold it at that state until you are ready to eat it.
Testing for Ripeness:
A pear is ripe when you can press on the flesh of the neck and it gives a little.
The Pear Bureau has a little fact sheet that gives more details.
Extension Service Sheet on Growing & Ripening Pears
Pear Bureau – USA
So Tell Me:
What is your favorite pear variety?
Do you preserve any pears or do you only eat them fresh?
Let me know in the comments below…
A Ripe Pear is a Sweet Pear
A little known fact about the pear is that it is one of the few fruits that does not ripen on the tree. The pear is harvested when it is mature, but not yet ripe, and, if left at room temperature, it slowly reaches a sweet and succulent maturity as it ripens from the inside out.
As tempting as the pear might be right from the grocer’s stand, a little bit of patience and know-how will ensure the pear reaches its peak flavor.
So, how do you know when the pear has ripened to sweet and juicy perfection?
While a Bartlett’s skin color brightens as it ripens, most varieties of pears show little change in color.
The best way to judge ripeness for non-Bartlett varieties is to Check the Neck™: Apply gentle pressure to the neck of the pear with your thumb. If it yields to pressure, it’s ripe. Easy, isn’t it?
Here’s what you need to do to ripen your pears:
- Leave firm, unripe pears at room temperature so that they can ripen.
- Check the Neck for Ripeness daily, by applying gentle pressure to the neck, or stem end, of the pear with your thumb. If it yields to pressure, then it’s ripe and ready to eat!
- Once the pear is ripe, it can be refrigerated to slow the ripening process and saved for use up to five days later.
To Prevent Browning
Keep a fresh fruit fresh.
Like many fruits, the flesh of cut or peeled pears will eventually brown. This natural oxidation process won’t affect the taste or quality. However, to keep your pears looking appetizing and to prevent browning, dip them in a mild solution of 50% water and 50% lemon juice!
Remember, don’t refrigerate an unripe pear!
Ripened pears can be used at once or put under refrigeration (35º to 45º F) until you want to use them. Refrigeration will delay further ripening but will not stop it altogether, giving you adequate time to include fresh pears in your menu planning. Remember, pears need to ripen at room temperature, so don’t refrigerate an unripe pear!
Flavor well worth the wait
Place underripe pears in a fruit bowl at room temperature near other ripening fruit like bananas, which naturally give off ethylene and will help speed up the ripening process. And if you find yourself with a few too many overripe pears, blend them into smoothies, soups, sauces and purees!
Wash Before Eating
All it takes is cold water
Thoroughly wash pears immediately prior to eating or preparation. Under cold, drinkable water, use your clean hands or a soft-bristled produce scrub brush to gently but vigorously scrub the entire exterior of the pear, taking extra care to cleanse the indentations near the stem (at the top) and calyx (at the bottom) of the pear. The total process will take 15 – 20 seconds.
Washing the entire exterior of the pear will help to eliminate dirt and/or commonly occurring bacteria that may be found on the fruit’s surface. Wash fruit even if you plan on peeling it.
Learn more about proper food handling and the food safety procedures you need to practice at home at www.befoodsafe.org.
I zapped an underripe pear in the microwave. Will it work for other fruits?
Underripe fruit is the best choice for Grilled Pears With Basil Sour Cream; get the recipe link, below. (Deb Lindsey/For The Washington Post)
In which I answer a question from last week’s Free Range chat:
I bit into a pear that turned out not to be ripe enough to eat. So as not to waste it, I microwaved it on HIGH for one minute, which wasn’t enough, so I put it back in for a second minute. (I chose microwaving over stewing or baking because I wanted it to be ready fast, considering I’d been expecting to eat it for dessert a few minutes earlier.) The two-minute result was not bad at all! But it could have been better, and I’m guessing you can tell me what to do next time. Whatever you suggest, would it work with other fruits, too, and maybe melons? I hate cutting into a cantaloupe or honeydew, only to find it underripe.
A perfectly timed question. It’s winter, when fruit flown in from afar arrives at the supermarket hard as a rock and slow to ripen — or unwilling to ripen at all. Pears, in particular, are notorious. Of course you remember the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson: “There are only 10 minutes in the life of a pear when it is perfect to eat.” No kidding. He really said that.
Tragically, Emerson had no microwave. As your experiment showed, you can use one to soften an underripe fruit, but you can’t accurately say you’ve ripened it. And you didn’t mention this, but I’m betting your nuked pear — although softened — didn’t really taste ripe. But okay: You were able to eat it and avoid waste, and that’s a win.
Was it the best technique? Well, most people know that to ripen fruit, the go-to method is to close it up in a paper bag, maybe with an apple to hasten the process, stash it away and wait a few days until it ripens. But that’s of no help when you want to consume the fruit right away, or at least very soon.
If you want to eat it fairly soon, I strongly suggest poaching over microwaving. Cut the fruit into quarters or thick wedges and cook them in a simple syrup, maybe adding a spice or two, until the fruit softens. Then let it stand for a while to develop flavor. You can eat it as is, or over ice cream or yogurt or sponge cake; or add it to oatmeal or granola. Poaching softens the fruit and adds flavor. It’s not quite as fast as the microwave, but I think it’s definitely the way to go.
I tried your method of microwaving a pear for two minutes, and it did get soft, but the taste was awfully meh. A ripe pear has so much more flavor and, in particular, more sugar. What I did that tasted better: cut the pear into chunks, sprinkled it with a generous amount of sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice, then microwaved it for a little over a minute and a half, stirring about halfway through. That resulted in much more flavor than just the plain microwaved pear. If you must nuke, give this a try.
As to other fruits, I think it might work with peaches, nectarines and maybe mangoes, again assuming you add a lot of sugar. Bananas, no; just tried it, complete failure. I didn’t try melons but can’t imagine they would respond well. You’re just going to have to improve your melon selection skills at the market.
Should you find yourself in the same situation again, try our recipe for Grilled Pears With Basil Sour Cream, pictured above; it requires pears that are underripe because they hold up better on the hot grill.
Got a culinary question? Fortunately, it’s Wednesday, so the answer will be close at hand when you tune in to today’s Free Range chat. A few hot topics, from the pages of this week’s Food: Maura Judkis looks at pay-what-you-can restaurants, designed to preserve the dignity of low-income diners; Bonnie S. Benwick casts a skeptical eye on our fascination with 5-ingredient recipes; and Fritz Hahn finds Walmart and other chain stores selling their own house brands of craft-style beer. What does his taste test reveal? Find out here. Today we’ll be joined by Unearthed columnist Tamar Haspel, who writes in defense of the beleagured potato.
And, of course, you can discuss the progress of WaPo Food’s 5 Diets project as our intrepid staffers finish Week 3.
The chat, as always, starts at noon.
More from Food:
Have questions about cooking? Join our live chat Wednesdays at 12.
When Are Pears Ripe To Eat: Learn About Pear Tree Harvest Time
One of summer’s finest fruits is the pear. These pomes are one of the few fruits that are best when picked under-ripe. Pear tree harvest time will vary according to variety. The early varieties are ready up to a month sooner than late-blooming types. Either way, it is best to pick them firm rather than waiting for them to ripen on the tree. When are pears ripe to eat? They are ready after some counter time unless you like soft, mealy fruit.
When are Pears Ripe to Eat?
It’s always hard to wait for something good but often the waiting just enhances the experience. This is the case with pears. Pears don’t ripen best on the tree. They ripen from the inside out and develop soft interiors with a mushy, grainy texture.
Pears should be firm and juicy for the best results eaten out of hand or canned. Habitual canners know how to pick pears and when they are ready for use. Take some tips from experts to prevent your harvest from maturing to mush and maximize your crop.
According to professional growers, pears should be allowed to ripen off the tree rather than on the stem. This is because pears will overdevelop on the plant, resulting in soft texture and overly sugared flesh. If you pick your pears when they have sweetly blushed skin but are still firm and slightly under-ripe, you can ripen them on the counter or in a paper bag for a week.
The delicious flavor will come out in about a week and the flesh approaches its best texture. Each fruit will come into its best maturity at slightly different times due to environmental factors, so when harvesting a pear tree, each pome will need to be individually considered before picking.
Pear Tree Harvest Time
The optimum time for picking pear fruit will vary dependent upon your zone. United States Department of Agriculture zones 5 and 6 harvest around August. Warmer climes can expect mature fruit a bit earlier.
You should begin by checking a few fruits to see if they are mature enough. Extremely young pears won’t be developed enough to produce the necessary sugars after leaving the branch. Take a pear gently in your hand and lightly tip it away from the branch. If the fruit comes off easily, it is ready to take. Those that resist should be left on the tree to mature a bit more.
This hand picking test is the best way to decide when to start picking pear fruit, since texture and color will vary by variety and are not a good indicator of maturity.
How to Pick Pears
You should have a basket or other container when harvesting a pear tree. I like to line mine with dish towels to help cushion the fruit and prevent bruising. Once you have easily separated the pear fruit that is mature, bring it indoors to ripen. You can keep the pears longer by storing them at 30 degrees Fahrenheit (-1 C.). This cooling period enhances the ripening process.
Bartlett pears only need a day or two of chilling, but many of the other varieties benefit from two to six weeks of cooling. Then it is time to force ripening. You can simply leave the pears on the counter in an area with 65 to 75 degree temperatures (18-23 C.) or put them in a paper bag with a banana or apple. These fruits give off ethylene gas, which encourages ripening. It’s a quicker way to produce perfect fruit in a shorter period of time.
Timing and the hand test are the keys to harvesting a pear tree and garnering the best tasting fruit for snacks or preserving.
Fall and Winter Pears – When to Pick
Pears fall into two basic categories: fall pears, that do not need a storage period before they are ready to use, and winter pears, that will not mature properly unless they are given a resting period in cold storage immediately after picking. The fall pears are earlier ripening varieties such as Bartlett, Clapp Favorite, and Orca, while those that ripen later, such as Bosc, Comice, and Highland, are winter pears.
A little known fact about the pear is that it is one of the few fruits that do not ripen on the tree. Both fall and winter pears still look “green” at the time they are ready to pick. If you wait to pick your pears until they look ripe, with yellow skin color, they will be soft and soon rot in storage. In addition, since most pears ripen from the inside out, if left on the tree to ripen, many varieties will brown at the core — in other words, they are overripe in the middle. This is variety dependent but is particularly common in most fall pears. The Orcas pear is one fall variety that has not been plagued with this condition and ripens fairly well on the tree. However, if you want to store pears for a month or more, letting them ripen on the tree won’t work. The earlier harvested fruit on a pear also stores the best for a given variety, and like apples the later season varieties (winter pears) have the longest storage potential.
Here’s an easy way to tell when to pick. When pears are ripe the stems will easily separate from the spur (at the abscission layer) when the fruit is lifted. If you have to tug or pull to get the pear off, it usually is not ready. After picking, fall pears can be kept on a shelf at room temperature until ready to eat – when yellow color develops and the fruit begins to soften. Fall pears can be stored but usually do not keep for more than 4 to 6 weeks. Many people use their fall pears for canning and drying.
Winter pears should be put into some kind of cold storage (below 40 degrees F. down to 33 degrees F.) for at least three weeks. After that period, you can start to bring out the fruit as needed to soften up at room temperature. At first it may take 5 to 9 days before the pears are ready to eat; later on a couple of days at room temperature may be long enough. You can speed up the ripening process by placing unripe pears in a fruit bowl at room temperature near other ripening fruit like bananas.
One other tip is to record the day of harvest for your trees from year to year; usually they will be within a week of that harvest period each year. Start testing the fruit 1-2 weeks before the anticipated harvest date and before long you will be proficient at harvesting correctly.
For long-term storage of any fruit, the key words are cool and ventilated. Cooling slows down the fruit respiration, which slows down senescence. Ventilation keeps ethylene and carbon dioxide from building up to damaging levels. Some people use old refrigerators set aside just for keeping fruit. If that is impractical, choose an area with low heat that does not go below freezing. A garage or shed, unheated porch, or dry basement area are possible locations. Avoid direct sunlight or areas with a wide range in temperature. Avoid confined unventilated areas.
Fruit can be packed in ordinary boxes lined with newspaper or other padding. Plastic bags without holes for ventilation should not be used as they can cause buildup of trapped ethylene, which will speed up ripening and shorten storage life, while excess moisture contributes to rot. Check periodically for rotten fruit and remove them at once. The old timers knew what they were talking about when they said, “One rotten apple spoils the whole barrel.”