Pears: picking, selecting, storing
24 Oct 2013 09.54 am by Renny Wijeyamohan
Once known as “butterfruit” for their soft and buttery texture, pears are amongst the tastiest and most well known members of the Rosaceae family. Their creamy flesh and juicy sweetness have led to their reign (alongside the apple and orange) as a lunchbox staple. Pears are a handy and nutritious snack and are a good source of Vitamin C and dietary fibre.
The two major senses that growers should use when assessing pears are sight and touch. Depending on the type of pear you are growing, there may be an obvious colouration change, a subtle colouration change or no colouration change at all when your pear is ready to be picked. This can be a little confusing, so it’s essential you get to know your local variety.
European pears like Bartlett pears change from green to yellow when ripe, Anjou pears change from light green to yellow-green, while Bosc pears and Comice pears will retain their brown and reddish colours respectively. When a European pear is ready for harvest it should snap easily from the tree. Grasp the pear firmly in your hand, tilt it so it is horizontal and then snap it from the tree. Avoid pulling straight down on the pear as this can cause a rupture to the skin around the stem that can allow bacteria to enter. European pears should be hard but springy when picked and must be chilled to ripeness before they can be consumed.
Asian pears like Chojuro and Dan Bae ripen on the tree and don’t need to be chilled before being eaten. Keep an eye out for a change in colour from green to golden brown or green to yellow – this is when most Asian pear varieties are ready to be picked. To harvest use the grasp, tilt and snap method just like you would with a European pear.
When selecting pears at your grocery store or supermarket look out for ones that have a full and round shape. They should be firm to the touch but not hard. If a pear is so soft that it gives when slight pressure is applied to the skin, it has ripened too much and won’t be pleasant to eat. Punctures, blemishes and bruises are also signs that bacteria may have infiltrated the pear and are best avoided.
Since European pears ripen from the inside out, if left to ripen on the tree they can develop a gritty or mushy texture. That’s why pear growers chill their pears at around 1.5°C (approx 35°F) for a period anywhere up to 6 weeks to ensure consistent ripeness and flavour. Experts from Oregon State University suggest that, “Bartlett pears need to be cooled only for a day or two, and winter pears such as Anjou, Bosc and Comice require 2 to 6 weeks for optimal effect.”
If you’re storing pears that you have purchased, chances are they have already have gone through the necessary cold storage process (if they are European pears). Once ripened – you can speed this process up by placing the pears in a paper bag – they will last about 4 days on the kitchen counter, just over a week when refrigerated and up to 12 months when frozen.
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