Yard and Garden: Harvesting and Storing Pears in Iowa

August 3, 2016, 4:35 pm | Richard Jauron, Greg Wallace

AMES, Iowa – Pears are a delicious part of any garden landscape, and they can be grown in Iowa. Multiple cultivars are acceptable for use in Iowa, although they differ slightly regarding harvesting and storage.

Iowa State University Extension and Outreach horticulturists can help answer questions regarding pear cultivars and getting the most out of them. 

When should I harvest European pears?

Most pears grown in Iowa are of European origin. Popular cultivars include ‘Summercrisp,’ ‘Moonglow,’ ‘Barlett’ and ‘Kieffer.’ European 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. In addition, tree-ripened fruit are poorly flavored. Harvest European pears when the color of the fruit changes from a deep green to yellow green. Also, the small spots (lenticels) on the fruit surface change from white to brown. The fruit will still be firm, not soft, at harvest.


How do I ripen European pears?

For immediate consumption, ripen European pears at room temperature. The ripening process should take seven to 10 days. To speed up ripening, place the pears in a tightly sealed paper bag.  The fruit give off ethylene gas, which accumulates in the bag and promotes ripening.

What are the proper storage conditions for European pears?

For long-term storage, refrigerate unripened pears at a temperature of 32 to 35 degrees Fahrenheit. European pears may be stored for one to three months. Remove stored fruit about one week prior to use.

When should I harvest Asian pears?

Asian pears (sometimes referred to as apple pears because of their round shape and crisp, firm texture) can be successfully grown in the southern half of Iowa. Popular cultivars include ‘Chojuro,’ ‘Hosui’ and ‘Shinseiki.’  

Asian pears, unlike European pears, should be allowed to ripen on the tree. Color and taste are the best indicators of maturity. The skin color of most Asian pears changes from green to yellow when ripe. When the color change occurs, pick and sample a pear. Ripe fruit should be crisp, crunchy, and sweet. Harvest Asian pears when the fruit have the appropriate color and taste.  

Asian pears can be stored for one to three months at a temperature of 32 to 35 F. However, Asian pears sometimes develop a strong, winy taste if stored for long periods. 

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