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Monthly Archives: October 2011

The ripening process of pears


Pears ripening in the fruit bowl - after a few days at the bottom of the fridge

When one goes to the supermarket and buys some pears, usually the pears are still firm and even hard depending on the variety. What is not generally known is that a lot has been done already, before these pears were offered for sale, to make sure that the pears  will ripen properly when taken home.  To start off with, there many different pear varieties. Basically there are some pear varieties which have to be picked earlier than others. Take, for example, Williams pears or Beth pears: by nature these are the earliest to mature. Now these pears will have to be picked when they are not fully mature. If they are left to ripen on the trees, usually the juiciness and flavour is disappointing. Then there are late maturing pears which in this country fail to mature on the trees. So, in order not to complicate the issue further, what is the best practice for someone who has a couple of pear trees and a good crop, and would like to have the  pleasure of eating a wonderful juicy pear, grown in their own garden? In addition, for pears grown in a garden, it’s nice to be able to spread their maturing out, as it would be impossible to eat them all in one go.

The answer to these questions may come as a surprise. First, you can control pear ripening by picking them when they are still hard and then keeping them in the fridge. Keeping them in the refrigerator for a few days actually improves their ripening when you take them out.

So this is the process: pick the pears when they are ready but still hard. How do you know when to start picking? Assuming you have watered your trees weekly and good fruit size has been achieved, then the following test is useful; lift the pear gently and when it comes away naturally, the stalk breaking easily, then the optimum picking time has been reached. When picking, do make sure that the pears are handled like eggs. Any bruising  translates into early rotting. Then put the pears into the bottom of the fridge without delay. Keeping them in the dark for several days at a temperature close to 1 degree Celsius ensures even fruit ripening later on. From then on, you can take two or three pears out of the fridge and leave the others in the fridge. The ones left in the fridge stay hard, while the ones put in the fruit bowl in the living room will start to soften quite quickly. Feel the fruit near the stalk end and press gently to see how soft it is. If it has softened at that particular spot, the pear is ready to eat.