Yard and Garden: Pears

AMES, Iowa — Perfectly ripe pears are a luscious treat. Horticulturists with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach answer questions about when to harvest and how to ripen and store pears to have the most desirable fruit. To have additional gardening questions answered, contact the ISU Hortline at 515-0294-3108 or hortline@iastate.edu.

When should I harvest pears?

Pears should not be allowed to ripen on the tree. If the fruit are left on the tree to ripen, stone cells develop in the fruit, giving the pears a gritty texture.

Tree-ripened fruit also will be poorly flavored. Harvest pears when the color of the fruit changes from deep green to yellow green. The fruit will still be firm, not soft, at harvest. 

How do I ripen pears?

Pears should be ripened indoors at a temperature of 60 to 70 F. The ripening process should take seven to ten days. To speed up ripening, place pears in a tightly sealed paper bag. The fruit give off ethylene gas, which accumulates in the bag and promotes ripening.

How do I store pears?

For long-term storage, refrigerate unripened pears at a temperature of 30 to 35 F. Pears may be stored for approximately one to three months. Remove stored fruit about one week prior to intended use. 

There are tan-colored, rough spots on the surface of my pears. Is it possible to prevent this from occurring?

Russeting is probably responsible for the tan-colored spots on your pears. Russeting also develops on the surface of apples. While affected fruit are not attractive, russeting doesn’t affect the eating quality of the fruit.  

Several factors may be responsible for russeting. High humidity, rainfall or heavy dew, cold temperatures and use of certain fungicides may induce russeting. Genetics also play a role in russeting. Some pear cultivars are more likely to develop russeting than others. Since most factors responsible for russeting are beyond our control, little can be done to prevent its occurrence.