The pear harvest is on. If you made the effort to plant a pear tree sometime in the past, you may already be picking these fruits. Provided you have not let them become wormy or scarred by bumping or wind damage, sometime in your past you made the effort to plant a pear tree, it has probably been rewarding you with fruits this fall. If you have kept the coddling moth larvae out of them and tended them well, they should provide a tasty crop of crisp-tender beautiful fruit. The tree is not as beautiful as the fruit; they tend to grow in odd shapes despite the efforts of the gardener. If planning to put in a pear tree, find a nice sunny place with good soil yet out of sight for it to grow.
If you harvested the Bartlett Pears, the most popular variety at the right time, they may be ripening in the basement right now. If you didn’t the pears may be turning yellow on the tree. If so, you have waited too long to harvest them.
Unlike apples, pears are not left on the tree to ripen. An apple doesn’t improve over the day that it is picked and sometimes a bit of frost improves the flavor. This is not true of pears.
Pears are different than most other fruits. They ripen from the inside out. If you wait until the skin turns yellow on the tree, the area around the core will likely be soft and brown. The part between the skin and the soft, brown core will be gritty with a less mellow flavor.
You pick them while they are still green — but at the right stage of green. Pick them at the right stage of maturity and they ripen evenly to provide a sweet, tender fruit throughout.
When is the right time? Pick them too late and they will be mushy. Pick them too early and they will shrivel without ripening. Choosing the right time isn’t as complicated as it might sound, however.
Use the following checks to determine when the crop is ready
-Use the calendar. Bartlett pears, the most popular variety, are usually ready to pick during the last half of August or the first half of September. That gives you a ballpark idea of when to start checking the other symptoms. Winter pears such as D’Anjou, Comice and Bosc are ready to pick two to four weeks later than Bartlett – usually mid-September to mid-October.
-Fruit will size up as it reaches maturity. Keep in mind that fruit on a well-laden tree won’t develop the size that a thinner crop will.
-The skin begins to lighten from dark green and the lenticels become more visible. Lenticels are ventilating pores that show up as dark dots on the skin.
-Seed coats become dark brown when the fruit is mature.
-Watch for a few sound fruits to fall from the tree. Those that are wormy will be the first to drop. These do not indicate that the rest of the fruit is ripening.
-Test the pears on the tree for ease of removal. Grasp the pear gently, lift it to take the weight off the spur (the woody twig that the pear is attached to) and twist gently. If the pear is ready to harvest, it will separate easily. If you have to pull hard or break the stem, wait and try again in a few days.
-If your tree has both large and small fruits, pick the larger ones first. Smaller ones will grow somewhat larger and all the fruits should be ready to pick within a week or 10 days.
You will likely already have pears picked to ripen. Perhaps you have purchased some. Store the fruits at room temperature. If you want the fruit to ripen more evenly for canning, cover the box with a blanket or a newspaper. As fruit ripens it gives off ethylene gas. The covering concentrates that gas, which, in turn, hastens the ripening process.
Winter pears require different conditions. Many gardeners plant winter pears as pollinator trees. Very few of these actually end up being eaten by home gardeners – not because they are not good, but because they require extra care. To ripen properly, they should be stored for two to three months at temperatures below 40 degrees, but above freezing after harvest. A refrigerator is generally required for these temperatures.
If your pears have developed brown skins (particularly around the bottom area) and weren’t Bosc pears, it’s probably a reaction to worm sprays. Liquid concentrates seem to cause this condition more than wettable powders.
Irregular brown areas or those that cover the entire pear are probably caused by the pear rust mite which feeds on the skin of the immature pears. Control these mites with the use of dormant sprays. Dormant sprays should be applied as blossoms swell in early spring.