Pears should be sweet, juicy, and succulent. We find many people say they don’t like pears, but that is because most people haven’t had one that is ripened correctly. Pears are an interesting fruit in that they should not be completely tree ripened. Pears on the tree ripen from the inside out, so when they are yellow on the tree, the center is mushy. The trick is to wait to pick them until they are starting the ripening process, then put them in cold storage for a short while. Once they are brought out of refrigeration, they will ripen evenly.
The amount of time for them to ripen depends on the year, variety and when they were picked. The first pears we pick often take a week to ripen. Nearer the end of the season it may take only a few days. Many supermarket pears don’t develop their full flavor because they were picked too early – we wait until we can see their color change from hard green to a softer green and they imperceptibly start to soften. That way we know they will ripen perfectly!
Pear Storage & Care
Unlike many other fruits, pears ripen from the inside out, so by the time they feel soft the flesh will be overripe and mealy. Because of this quirk, pears are not allowed to fully ripen on the tree. There is no “right” time to eat a pear. Some people like theirs as crunchy as an apple, and choose to eat them when they are green. Others like them soft as butter, with fully yellow skins. Most people fall in between, choosing a pear that’s mostly yellow on the outside, with a smooth, not overly soft flesh. If you don’t already know what ripeness you like, experiment with a few pears and eat them at all the stages of green to yellow!
To speed up the ripening process, you can put pears in a closed paper bag with an already-ripe apple or banana. Check daily. Pears are considered ripe when they yield slightly to gentle pressure at the stem end, but again, you might like them softer or crunchier than that. To slow down the ripening process, store them in the refrigerator.
Frozen pears can be added to upside down cakes and muffins all winter. For tips on how to freeze them, consult the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service. For canning instructions, please refer to this online publication from the Colorado State University Extension.