In order to obtain the highest quality fruit, pears must be harvested at the proper stage of maturity. Once harvested, proper storage is necessary to maximize storage life.
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. Tree-ripened fruit are also 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.
For immediate consumption, ripen European pears at room temperature (60 to 70°F). The ripening process should take seven to ten days. To speed up ripening, place the pears in a tightly sealed paper bag. The fruit gives off ethylene gas, which accumulates in the bag and promotes ripening.
For long-term storage, refrigerate unripened pears at a temperature of 32 to 35°F. European pears may be stored for one to three months. Remove stored fruit about one week prior to use to fully ripen at room temperature.
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 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.