How Can You Tell if a Pear is Ripe?

by in In Season, October 14, 2011
bartlett pear
Barlett pears. Image courtesy of USA Pears.

If you’ve ever bitten into a pear, heard a crunching sound, but didn’t really taste the sweetness you might have expected, chances are it wasn’t quite ripe. A little-known fact about pears: They’re one of the few fruits that don’t ripen on the tree. Once they’re picked,they need a little time for their sugars to develop, then they ripen (and sweeten) from the inside out. 

Some pear varieties change color when ripe. A Bartlett pear acts like a banana—it goes from green to yellow when ready to eat.  Unfortunately, not all pears broadcast this transformation so vividly. Checking ripeness doesn’t involve some complicated process however; it really just calls for holding the fruit in your hand. If the area around the stem of a pear gives a little with a gentle squeeze, it’s good to go. The USA Pear Bureau has an easy phrase for remembering how to determine if your pear is ripe: Check the neck.

Just-picked or purchased pears should be ripened at room temperature. On the counter is fine, but keep unripened pears out of the ‘fridge. Once ripe, you can store pears in the refrigerator. The cold temperatures will slow the ripening process and they’ll keep for 3 to 5 days.

There are a few ways to speed up the ripening process apart from leaving pears on the kitchen counter. Putting them in a bowl with other ripening fruits or in a paper bag allows the ethylene ( a gas naturally given off during the ripening process) to speed the process along.

A pear becomes overripe once it starts to squish around the middle, but that doesn’t mean they should be tossed out.  Overripe pears can lend texture and sweetness to soups, smoothies and other purees.

Use your ripe-pear detecting skills this fall in these recipes:

Pear and Ginger Crumble

Pear Soup

Prosciutto with Pears and Arugula

Roasted Pear Bellini


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