“There are only ten minutes in the life of a pear when it is perfect to eat.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
While the quote above may be an exaggeration, it does serve to highlight the fact that many growers struggle to figure out the proper ripening and eating times for pears. In this post, we will teach you everything you need to know for picking, ripening, and enjoying homegrown pears.
The Nature of Pears
Did you know pears don’t ripen on the tree?
While most types of fruit reach their peak on the branch or vine, pears need to be picked before ripening. If left on the tree, pears ripen from the inside out and, by the time they seem to be at the ripe stage, they are beyond it — usually mushy with a mealy texture beneath the skin.
To avoid such results, you must pick pears when they are mature but not yet fully ripened. Figuring out the answer to “when are pears ripe?” can be difficult. When in season, a mature pear will still be firm to the touch, so feel won’t be a strong indicator. You can’t really go by sight either; a mature pear could be a variation of colors, like green, yellow, or even blush, depending on the variety.
The best way to tell if a pear is ready to harvest is by taking the fruit in your hand and tilting it horizontally. The mature fruit will easily come away from the branch at this angle (as opposed to its natural vertical hanging position). If it is not yet ready for picking, it will hold on to the branch.
Once harvested, most pears will require about a week to ripen at room temperature (about 65-72ºF). If you store the fruit in a paper bag, you can speed up this process so that it will ripen in just a few days. You may also choose to store your harvested pears with an apple or banana — fruits that are more prone to releasing ethylene gas, which accelerates the ripening process. (Beware, ethylene gas may cause your pears to break down faster than anticipated, starting from the inside out, so it may be better to be patient and let the pears ripen on their own at room temperature.)
Pear season is coming! In a typical year, it starts in August for those of us in zones 5 and 6. If you are growing your own, make sure you are prepared!
The information above applies to European Pears. Asian Pears tend to ripen just fine on the tree. To learn more about ripening and other differences between these two kinds of pears, check out our article, Growing & Preserving Pears.