Monday, October 6, 2014

Adventures in Growing Pears

 “There Are Only Ten Minutes in the Life of a Pear When it is Perfect to Eat.”                                                                                                                                                 Ralph Waldo Emerson

Growing and harvesting pears is trickier than I ever imagined. Last year, thanks to our neighborhood squirrels, who stripped our tree bare, we had a grand total of three (delicious!) pears. Learning from last year's disaster, we installed a dollar's worth of air duct pipe around the trunk of the tree, keeping our furry friends from climbing up and absconding with this year's bounty. This little device made all the difference in the world. Today, we harvested 36 pears! Our gain; the squirrels loss. 

But when to harvest? According to pear experts on the web, pears should be picked when slightly immature and still hard. To tell when a pear is ready for plucking, you should 'tilt' the pear to a horizontal position from their usual vertical hanging position. If the pear is ready to be picked, it will easily detach.

Following these directions, I climbed the ladder, gently took hold of a pear and rotated it as described. To my utter surprise and delight, the pear just snapped off! I did this with each pear. The three pears that did not detach, I left for another day. 

Now, that's not the end of the story. Unlike apples, which are ready to eat from the day they are picked, pears need to go through a series of changes before they are edible. According to my reading, once pears are picked, they need to be cooled to about 30 degrees F for about one to two weeks. (I'm hoping our refrigerator will work for this process.) Without a chilling process, a mature picked pear may never ripen. After chilling, pears will then ripen at room temperature in about 5 to 7 days.

You can also 'kick start' the ripening process by putting freshly harvested pears in a paper bag with an apple or ripe banana. The apple or banana will give off ethylene gas, which acts as a catalyst and speeds up the ripening process.

Well, that's a lot to take in!

We've divided our pears into several groups. We've put a few into a paper bag with an apple, a few others into a paper bag without an apple, some into the refrigerator, and a few others left to sit on the kitchen shelf. Now we wait! I promise to report back as we taste the results of our experiments over the next few weeks.

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