When is the best time to harvest pears?
In growing fruit, one of the things that has been a learning process fo rme has been identifying when the optimal time is to harvest my fruit. There are different rules for different fruit.
Every year, I learn something new or accomplish something different, and this year, I am most excited about my pear harvest.
In Texas, and the South in general, our pears and apples can be vulnerable to fire blight. Consequently, I do not grow European pears which are particularly vulnerable to fire blight. I currently am growing fireblight resistant hybrid varieties such as Orient, Warren, Monterrey, Moonglow, Pineapple, Kieffer, Seckle, and Magness.
When determining ripeness and harvesting pears, the books and experts suggest that you look at the color of the lenticels, the small pores in the skin, to turn from white to brown. They also suggest that you feel for a little give in the skin. When both of these occur, the pear should be mature and will ripen off the tree.
Frankly, I think determining ripeness from skin or lenticel color on a pear is pretty tough, and I don't think I am experienced enough to easily use that method.
Personally,I think one of the best indicators for me in determining ripeness is by lifting a fruit up toward the sky from the bottom in an arcing fashion (with the stem being the pivot point) to see how much give there is with the stem. If it can come off easily from the stem, it should be ripe. When harvesting, you should be able to lift the fruit upward and off -- don't twist or pull. If it doesn't come off easily from the stem, you should wait.
I kept an eye for fruit on the ground to determine when I needed to start watching the fruit more closely. Our squirrels are very aggressive, however, so the mere fact that a pear is on the ground does not necessarily mean the fruit is ripe in my garden.
Don't expect the fruit to be soft. European pears are best ripened off the tree, so they don't become mealy. They ripen from the core, out. (In contrast, asian pears are ripened on the tree.)
Once harvested, I immediately chilled the fruit in my refrigerator. After 2 weeks, I would select fruit as needed and leave it on the counter for 2 or 3 days for it to soften and get juicy. It was perfect!
While keeping the pears in the refrigerator, I have been able to consume the harvest for a period of approximately six weeks. After the pears were in the fridge for four weeks, I could eat them really almost immediately or after only a day on the counter. After six weeks, I am getting near the end of my harvest. I am not sure how long these fruit will remain edible, but I suspect another 2 to 4 weeks.