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Pears Are Ready

Back in August, my pear tree was full of large, beautiful pears just starting to drop off the branches… and attracting the attention of a local squirrel.

On about August 15th, the pear tree in my small kitchen garden dropped a pear. All the pears on it at that point were green: completely not ready for eating. However, I long ago learned that when the pears in your tree(s) look full-grown, and then one falls of its own accord, it’s time to harvest. My blog post of August 15, Harvesting Pears, explains.

It’s Pear-Eating Time!

From mid August until a week ago, I’ve had about three dozen pears cold-aging in the refrigerator in my basement. That’s about six weeks of cold-aging. Last weekend, I removed four pears from the fridge, and set them on my kitchen counter. Yesterday, I ate one of those pears. I wasn’t disappointed: it was sweet, juicy, and smooth as any pear I’ve ever eaten.

I don’t know what variety of pear grows on my pear tree. I’d guess Bartlett because there is no pollinator nearby, but the pears always come in full. Oddly, my pears never seem to ripen yellow. Rather, they become light green when they’re ripe, though some develop a reddish patch on whichever side gets the most sun.

To determine whether they’re ready for eating, I sniff them. If they smell like pears, they’re ready—or close enough.

A Harvesting Pears Amendment

As I’ve been sniffing pears during the past week, it occurred to me that in my first post about harvesting pears, I didn’t mention something that seems painfully obvious: It’s important to monitor the pears you put into cold-storage. If a single pear turns ucky (in my experience, at least one pear always turns ucky) it will try to share its uckiness with all surrounding pears. Leave a pear that’s turned bad with your other pears for three or four weeks, and they’re likely all to come out bad.

This little gem came out of cold-storage about a week ago and is exactly ready for eating. If you let pears ripen on the tree, they’ll likely develop hard spots and become grainy. Several weeks of cold-storage before final ripening assures they’ll come out smooth, sweet, and juicy.

I hope this hasn’t happened to any of you. And, I hope that if you didn’t believe me when I wrote about this in August, that you ran a test with at least a few pears. If you had harvested and stored your pears when the first ones fell from the tree, you should have a luscious store of fruit to carry you for several weeks—or even months into late autumn or winter.

For those of you who left pears to ripen on the tree: if the pears are already soft and you find them unpleasant to eat, use them to make jelly. Pear jelly is sublime–a perfect spread for toasted english muffins (but a rather odd flavor in a peanut butter and jelly sandwich).

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2 Responses to “Pears Are Ready”

  • Jan:

    This is the first year my tree has had any pears but they are very small. My branches are breaking because of so many one them we had about 38 on one branch. they have a good taste: but why are they so small, my sons trees always has large ones untill this year his are as small as mine. WHY

  • admin:

    Jan: Sorry about the delayed reply; I’ve been out of town and getting online has been very challenging. Small but copious pears? The main reason for your small pears is that there are so many. I wrote about this problem with regards to peaches in the post Kill Peaches in Your Small Kitchen Garden. What I said there applies to pears as well, but in my experience pears aren’t as sensitive to the effects of having too much fruit as peaches are. Still, with 38 fruits on a branch, I’d expect all of them to be quite small.

    In my neighborhood, a second factor could contribute to your pears being small: we’ve had very little rain. With less water to store in the fruit, the tree grows smaller pears. So, with whole bunches of pears on a branch and a dry season, you might have a double-whammy making your pears tiny.

    Unfortunately, it’s late enough in the season that you probably won’t improve things by culling pears at this point. Well… you will relieve strain on the branches, but it’s unlikely you’ll help the pears to grow bigger.

    The good news is, all those pears can grow up to be juicy and sweet. So, I’d encourage you to provide some support for the over-loaded branches, but manage the pears as always. Then, either eat very small pears this year, or juice them to make jelly and syrup. In future seasons, inspect the branches right after petals drop and if you find dozens of fruits on each branch, reduce the number to, perhaps, a dozen–or even just six–fruits per branch (it so depends on the sizes of the branches).

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