Pears seem to be a lot like other fruits, such as apples. But, knowing when you should pick them so that they can be preserved properly can be a bit tricky. Home gardeners should be aware of several different manners in which to tell when you should pick your pears for the best taste and longest-lasting fruit.
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What Are the Two Main Types of Pears?
There are two main types of pears: the English pear and the Asian pear. English pears are pear-shaped and the most common in the United States. Asian pears are more round and much more firm than the European varieties. Pears come in several different colors, such as shades of green, red, brown, and yellow. So this part in itself can make it hard to know when your pears are ready to be picked. If pears were all one color, you might be able to tell when to pick them by their color.
What Are The Different Methods to Know When Pears Should be Harvested?
If you wait too long to pick your pears, they will be overripe and start turning mushy as the interior flesh becomes soft. If you allow pears to ripen fully on the tree, they will have very little to no storage life in them as they will again overripen quickly. Pears should be picked before they are ripe and they need to be placed in cold storage. As you want to eat some or cook with them, you allow them to finish ripening at room temperature.
Some signs that show you that it’s time to pick your pears include the dark green leaves are turning lighter green to a greenish-yellow hue. The tiny dots on the pear skin are usually white and when the fruit is ready to be picked they turn brown. Immature pears have a bumpy feel to the skin, but when they are mature and ready to be picked, the skin becomes waxy and more smooth.
One of the best methods of telling when your pears are ready to pick is to hold the pear from the bottom where it grows vertically. Then you rotate the pear into a horizontal position to the ground. If the fruit breaks away from the twig or spur where it’s attached on its own in this manner, then it is ready to harvest.
The fruit that grows at the top of your pear trees and on the ends of the limbs usually matures more quickly than the fruit in the center of the tree does.
You should realize that pears bruise very easily when they are picked. This is why you might have noticed pears at the grocery store in a protective little mesh pouch that is very soft. This keeps pears from knocking together and getting bruises, which leads to very short storage times.
How to Store Freshly Harvested Pears
You will get the longest life out of pears if you place them in cold storage. The most well-known pear variety is the “Bartlett” and you can keep these for about one to two months as a summer-producing pear.
Winter varieties of pears include “Comice,” “Bosc,” and “Anjou.” These all require at least four and up to eight weeks of cold storage before they begin to ripen. The cold weather slows down the ripening process and gives these types of pears longer to ripen for a better flavor and texture.
Asian pears ripen on the tree and they are ready to eat as soon as you pick them from the tree. You can store this type of pear in cold storage as well, but they will only keep for up to three months at the most. The good thing is that you don’t need to harvest all of your Asian pears at once. When they start to get soft, you do need to remove them all from the tree and store them.
How to Store Pears in Cold Storage
To store your pears of any type, you should discard any that are overripe already or any that have no stem on them. When you pick them from the tree, the stems should remain intact on the top of each pear. To prepare your storage box, you can use a shallow cardboard box and cut some slots out on the sides for air ventilation or choose a shallow wooden box made with slats. Crumple up some newspaper and place it on the bottom of the box to protect your fruit.
If you have a winter variety of pear, then they will require a period of cold storage before ripening and you should wrap each pear individually in tissue paper. Place all of the fruit in a single layer in your box without them touching each other and place them in cold storage. You can use an old refrigerator set at 30 to 32 degrees F or a cellar, shed, or garage that is not heated at the same approximate temperature.
You should check on your pears at least once a week and discard any that appear moldy or very soft so they don’t make the other pears get overripe as well.
How to Ripen Your Winter Pears
After your winter varieties of pears have been in cold storage, you will need to let them ripen before eating, canning, or using them. Take them out of your cold storage area and put them in a room with a temperature of 60 to 70 degrees F. Simply place them in a bowl of some sort gently and they should ripen between three and 10 days.
If you want to ripen your pears more quickly, you can place a few in a paper bag and loosely close it or you can add a ripe avocado, banana, or apple to your pears in the bowl. These three fruits release ethylene gas to speed up the ripening process.
If you want to ripen your pears more slowly, move them to a cooler area that is between 45 and 60 degrees F. To test for ripeness, gently apply slight pressure to the shoulder area and if it yields just a bit to pressure, then it’s ripe. If it’s still hard, wait another two days and test them again.
Other Tips For Growing Pears
All pear trees are hardy in hardiness zones 4 through 8 in North America. The best way to choose a variety that is suited to your exact weather conditions all year round is to visit a nursery and see which kinds they have. Nurseries only carry fruit trees that will do good in your area.
Pear trees should be planted when they are dormant in the early spring or late winter. Choose a spot that is in full sun for 6 to 8 hours a day. Be aware that some varieties of pear trees can grow up to 40 feet tall, so you need to plan ahead so they will have room to grow. If you don’t have that much space, choose a dwarf pear tree from your local nursery.
After you plant your tree, place a heavy-duty stake next to it and tie the main trunk to it so it can grow straight and tolerate wind and rain. Most soil only requires that you fertilize your pear tree only once a year in the spring. If you are new to growing fruit trees, consider using a pear tree fertilizer spike that you drive into the ground and it releases fertilizer slowly and at the right rate, so you can be successful.
Pear trees don’t have many pests or diseases that bother them and they are quite easy to grow for a home gardener. Just make sure that you know if your variety is European or Asian so you can harvest them at the right time and have delicious pears to eat.