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Posts Tagged ‘ripen’

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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Harvesting Pears

Green  pear

Why is a blog about your small kitchen garden talking about harvesting pears? Pears grow on trees, so how can they qualify for a small kitchen garden? Well… when it comes to home-grown fruit, you have to stretch some rules: if you want home-grown pears, the smallest thing you can grow to get them is a tree. For many of us, there’s an even simpler excuse: we moved to houses that had pear trees growing in the yard, and it seems a shame to let the fruit go to waste.

OK, but have you bitten into one of those pears, picked fresh-ripe from your tree? Did it make you wonder what’s wrong with the tree? Did you think, perhaps, that you got stuck with an inferior plant?

The hard truth is actually good news: picking a ripe pear and biting into it can be really disappointing. A pear that ripens on the tree often develops unevenly: there may be hard spots among the soft. As well, a tree-ripened pear may be grainy—as if there is sand sprinkled through it.

Here’s the good part: you can get terrific fruit from your pear tree.

Getting perfect pears

When your pears start to look big enough to eat, pay enough attention to notice when one falls off the tree. This usually happens before the pears are ripe. At this point, pick all of them. Stack the newly-picked, still green pears in a refrigerator where they can stay for a month or so without interfering with your life. Your mission is to keep the pears at about 40 degrees.

After four or more weeks, take several pears out of the refrigerator and leave them at room temperature for two or three days—or until they’re ripe. As you consume the first set of pears, remove several more from cold-storage, and set them to ripen at room temperature. When you bite into a pear harvested and stored this way, you’ll gain considerable appreciation for that pear tree in your yard.

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Are Your Tomatoes a Mess?

Many years ago, I read in our local newspaper that I was harvesting my tomatoes in the worst possible way: I was letting them ripen on the vine.

What? The grocery store sells vine-ripened tomatoes. Aren’t these the best? Isn’t there a produce supplier that calls itself “Vine-Ripe Tomatoes.” Truth is, vine ripening is hype. Unless you carefully control your soil’s nutrition, watering, and the climate, ripening on the vine is not what it’s cracked up to be… and all that activity makes your small kitchen garden anything but a lazy garden.

Do your vine-ripened tomatoes have any of the following problems?

  • There is a hard ring of flesh around the top that isn’t as tasty as the rest of the tomato.
  • The lower part of the tomato is dead-ripe or even starting to rot while the top of the tomato is still green.
  • There are rings of thin white skin around the top of the tomato, blemishing the healthy, red skin.
  • There are cracks that run from the stem down the sides of the tomato, and some start to turn black before the rest of the tomato is ripe.

Ripening tomatoes

Here’s the easiest way to cure these problems:

When you see pink on your mostly-green tomatoes, pick them. Yes, I’m telling you to pick your tomatoes when they’re almost completely green.

Leave the tomatoes someplace out of the elements. I typically fill a large stainless steel bowl with my nearly green tomatoes, and leave it on my dining room table. If you’re meticulous and you like the bowl idea, put the greenest tomatoes on the bottom, and stack more on them so the ripest tomatoes are on top. As you pick more nearly-green tomatoes, stack them in a separate container.

Monitor the tomatoes casually: have a look each day. In three days to a week, you’ll be able to pick ripe tomatoes from the bowl, and most of the tomatoes will ripen at about the same time. You can leave the ones that ripen first for several days as the slower tomatoes catch up.

If this whole idea sounds crazy, then do a test with a few tomatoes: pick three or four that are showing their first pink, and set them aside till they’re ripe. Compare the quality with your vine-ripened, challenged tomatoes. You might decide to harvest all your tomatoes this way.

Other’s thoughts about harvesting tomatoes, and about what to do with them after the harvest:

  • When To Harvest Tomatoes – I’d pondered this issue when I first started growing tomatoes. Reading advice from various experts, the “ideal” first choice is to allow the tomatoes to ripen on the vine, are fully red (or other color, such as yellow, depending on the …

  • De-hydrating the Harvest: Tomatoes, Pears and Apples – Last year when working at the farm in Tehachapi I lucked out when I had an excess of tomatoes combined with a thoughtful friend and farm volunteer, Kristin, who provided me with a perfect tool for preserving the excess for winter use. …

  • A garden meal – As I was working in the garden last weekend, I took stock of our harvest: tomatoes, eggplant, basil, tomatillos, spinach, beans and peppers. The tomatoes and eggplant needed to be used, so I decided to take advantage of the cooler …

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