Thursday, July 28, 2011

Pears are an Underrated Fruit

Cooks in the south historically cook hard pears and make preserves, pear honey, and pear pie or some other delicious baked goods. When I was a child, we had pear trees that had tiny sweet pears that usually rotted on the tree. My MIL used to can pears but they were always grainy and kind of chewy compared to canned pears from the grocery. I wanted sweet juicy pears that you need to eat in the nude because of all that dripping juice.

Here’s what I’ve learned. Some years back we planted three pear trees. One Pineapple pear, one Hood and one that is either Keiffer or Orient or maybe it’s Keiffer and Orient and not Hood. Not to worry. I didn’t label them. I know the one in the middle is a pear that will soften and tastes wonderful peeled and eaten when picked when mature, ripened off the tree and allowed to soften. The others are ‘hard pears’ but I’m learning about softening pears. The key terms are Mature, Ripe and Soft.

In the midst of going from Mature to Ripe the pears must be picked then refrigerated, some for only a day or two, others for up to a month. The Ripe pears are brought out to soften at room temperature prior to peeling and eating or using in cooking.

Why? Because pears left to ripen on the tree on the tree develop stone cells which make the texture gritty. Then they ripen from the core outward and a ripe pear on the tree is rotten at the core. That’s why my pears were never buttery and juicy like pears from the grocery store. I was waiting for them to get ripe and soft on the tree. It isn’t going to happen.

The other thing I’ve learned is why my two hard pears alternated years having bumper crops and no pears in the off year. There are also broken limbs from the weight of all those pears. Overcropping is the term for what is happening. As difficult as it is to remove a tiny fruit, they must be thinned early and I must not wait until the limbs are hanging with big fruits. Fruit buds for the next year form soon after full bloom. Overcropping prevents fruits forming and that is why my trees alternate years.

We're eating pears: ripe, soft, juicy. I've made pear preserves.

I'm excited about sending my vegetable gardening neighbors who have shared veggies with me some ripened, soft pears for eating and some ripe hard pears for making pear tarts.

Secrets of a Seedscatterer


  1. Now I know why when I pick a pear at the farm it is not so good to eat. Thanks for the info. I knew there had to be a trick to it. Not being much of a fruit eater, I guess it never dawned on me to take them home and let them sit.

  2. We have some pears sitting on the counter right now. Last night I stewed some on the stove with butter, cinnamon and sugar...YUMMY! We are big pear pie makers around here too...

  3. This is really fabulous information. Thanks so much for sharing this. We have been considering pear trees but I understand they bloom early and our climate can sometimes kill these early blooms with frost. Some people have pears here so I know it can work but you need the right location. and now I know how to ripen them if I ever do attempt growing them.

  4. Well, now I know why I eat pears sometimes that are gritty tasting. Thanks for the info! I've made peach butter this year - would love to make some pear butter, too. Will have to be on the lookout for them at the farmers market (not ripened on the tree!).

  5. You can count me as someone who didn't know the reason for soft vs. gritty pears either. Great pics, and I'm a bit jealous of the fresh, juicy pears you're enjoying.

  6. My Kieffer has about 12 pears this year, but my two Seckels have nothing.

    I think my other is a Starking Delicious or a Moonglow.

    They have been planted for a long time and still no fruit......except for the Kieffer.

    I like pears because they dont' require all that spraying.


I look forward to comments and questions and lively discussion of gardening and related ideas.

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