|Mixed Pear Varieties Off the Tree. 7.28.16|
European pears are easy to grow but I find it difficult to judge when to ripen them. If picked too soon, they are hard, sour, and flavorless. If picked too late, they rot from the inside out.
The reason is that European pear ripening is a multi-step process. Left on the tree, they ripen from the inside out.
I've researched multiple websites. They are not all in agreement regarding the proper timing of picking, and the follow up process, but there are similarities and some trends.
According to Oregon State University Extension Service, a pear is ready to pick when they" detach when "tilted" to a horizontal position from their usual vertical hanging position." Following picking, pears should be refrigerated. The authors note, "Bartlett pears need to be cooled only for a day or two, and winter pears such as Anjou, Bosc and Comice require 2 to 6 weeks for optimal effect" So you need to know what variety you have, in order to choose chilling time. However, it might be OK to ripen Barlets for 2 to 6 weeks if the variety is not known. After the chill period is completed, pears should be ripened "at 65 to 75 degrees F for the following times: Bartlett, 4 to 5 days, Bosc and Comice, 5 to 7 days; and Anjou, 7 to 10 days. The longer the time the pears have spent in cold storage, the shorter the time to ripen them".
Ethylene gas is involved in the ripening process. Bananas and apples produce ethylene gas, so to speed ripening, place the pear into a paper bag with a ripe banana or apple. I did that with persimmons, to good effect. Stark Brothers recommends using a banana or apple to ripen a pear.
Colorado gives other ideas about when pears are ready to pick. "disregard the red blush on varieties that develop it such as D’Anjou.... The ground color of the pear skin will change to more closely resemble the mature pear of that variety. With Bartlett and D’Anjou and other yellow pear varieties, skin becomes a lighter green."
University of Georgia comments that the lenticels of unready pears are white, but when they are ready to pick they become brown. The link states, "One measure of maturity are the fruit lenticels. These are the small “dots” or indentations on the fruit’s skin. Lenticels of immature pears are white; however, as cork cells develop the lenticels become brown and shallow. The brown in the lenticels is a good indication that the fruit is ready to be picked and will ripen without shriveling. Color between the lenticels also becomes lighter green than at the lenticels."
I will see if I get it right this year. I am picking pears if they fall off when moved to horizontal position. A lot of them are doing that now. Then they go into the fridge for 2 to 4 weeks, then ripen on counter or in a paper bag with apple or banana. We'll see what happens.