Elisabeth C. Miller Library logo Miller Library Home UW Botanic Gardens Home UW Botanic Gardens Home book graphic

3501 NE 41st Street, Seattle, WA 98195 | (206) 543 0415 | Open: | Library Schedule

Gardening Answers Knowledgebase

Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Pyrus, Harvesting time, Fruit ripening

I have several pear trees. I'm never sure when to pick the fruit--should it be picked when ripe, or can it be picked sooner and allowed to ripen off the tree? Any advice on storage after harvesting would also be helpful.


If you have European pears, and not Asian pears, they are best picked before they are fully ripe. University of California, Davis Integrated Pest Management has basic information on harvesting pears. Excerpt:
"European pear varieties ripen best off the tree. Fruit that is left on the tree doesn't develop full flavor. Pick the fruit when it is green and hard but of mature size for the variety. The stem should break off the spur easily when the fruit is twisted upward. If the spur breaks off the tree, the fruit is not ready to pick. Allow the fruit to ripen in a cool place in a fruit ripening bowl or paper bag. You may store fall-ready varieties for several weeks in cold storage (below 40 degrees F) and bring them out for ripening at room temperature.
Asian varieties should be allowed to ripen on the tree. The fruit will generally turn from green to yellow and the flesh should be sweet and juicy. Asian pears will hold on the tree for quite a while after they have ripened. It is better however, to keep them in cold storage until ready to eat. Asian pears can be stored for several months, depending on variety."

Oregon State University Extension has an article by Robert Stebbins and others (Picking and Storing Apples and Pears) listing different varieties of pear (and apple) and the best times to harvest and their average life in storage at different temperatures.

Here is more on picking and storing pears, an article by Carol Savonen with information from Oregon State University Extension agent David Sugar.
"Pears picked when slightly immature will ripen with better quality than pears that are over mature when picked. To tell if a pear is mature, a general rule of thumb is that, while still on the tree, most mature, ready to ripen pears will usually detach when 'tilted' to a horizontal position from their usual vertical hanging position. Bosc pears always are difficult to separate from the spur.
"Unlike apples, which are ready to eat from the day they are picked, pears must go through a series of changes before they can deliver their full splendor," explained Sugar. "Pears do not ripen on the tree to our liking. If allowed to tree-ripen, pears typically ripen from the inside out, so that the center is mushy by the time the outside flesh is ready.
"Commercial pears are harvested when they are 'mature,' he continued. "In pear language, that means they are picked when they have reached the point where they will ripen to good quality, sometimes with a little help, but definitely OFF the tree.
"'So the frequently heard notion that pears are picked when they are still hard and green as a convenience for enduring the long truck ride to market misses the point,' Sugar quipped.
"Once commercial pears are picked, growers cool them down to about 30 degrees F. They don't freeze at this temperature, because the fruit sugar acts like an antifreeze.
"'The colder the pears are, the longer they'll stay in good condition,' said Sugar. 'In fact, they actually need to be cooled in order to ripen properly.'
"Bartlett pears need to be cooled only for a day or two, and winter pears such as Anjou, Bosc and Comice require 2 to 6 weeks for optimal effect, he said.
"'Without this chilling process, a mature picked pear will just sit and sit and eventually decompose without ever ripening,' explained Sugar.'Pear ripening must be closely watched (...) There is a relatively narrow window between "too hard" and "too soft" where the perfect pear texture lies.' Sugar recommends ripening pears at 65 to 75 degrees F for the following times: Bartlett, 4 to 5 days, Bosc and Comice, 5 to 7 days; and Anjou, 7 to 10 days. The longer the time the pears have spent in cold storage, the shorter the time to ripen them. 'As ripening begins, pears produce ethylene gas, a ripening hormone, inside the fruit. This speeds the ripening along. The ripening time gets shorter as the time since harvest passes.'
"Pear lovers can 'kick start' the pear ripening process by putting freshly bought or newly harvested pears in a paper bag with a ripe banana or an apple, both of which give off copious quantities of ethylene gas. The bag keeps the gas near the pears, which soak it up and quickly begin producing their own.
"How do you tell when a pear is ripened to perfection? 'Hold the pear gently but firmly in the palm of your hand, as a baseball pitcher might hold the ball while studying signs from the catcher,' recommended Sugar. 'Apply the thumb of that same hand to the pear flesh just below the point where the stem joins the fruit. When the flesh beneath your thumb yields evenly to gentle pressure, it is time to eat your pear. If you have to push more than slightly, it is not ready yet.'"

Date 2017-05-12
Link to this record only (permalink)

Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Ribes, Harvesting time, Fruit ripening

I have picked my red currants. Some berries on the bunches are still green. Is it possible to ripen them in the house?


Most sources say that you should pick entire strigs (the name for the bunches of fruit) when they are fully ripe. I don't think the green currants will ripen successfully indoors. However, currants which are to be used for making preserves may be picked slightly before full ripeness (but not when green), according to an article on fruit harvesting, published by the University of Idaho Extension:

"Currants may be harvested two or three times, but all of the fruit from a particular cultivar is usually harvested at one time. Wait until all of the berries on the bush are ripe. Berries at the tops of the fruit clusters ripen before those at the tips. Harvest the fruit after it softens and is fully ripe, but before it begins to shrivel. [...] Pick the fruit by pinching off the fruit clusters (called strigs) where they attach to the stem. Particularly with red and white currants, do not strip the berries from the clusters."

University of Illinois Extension has similar recommendations:
"Currant: For eating out-of-hand, currants should be dead ripe and picked just before eating. For making jam and jelly, however, pick them when they are firm but not fully ripe. Pectin content is high at this stage. Currants have a naturally high pectin content and thus are excellent choices for jelly- and jam-making. To harvest currants, twist the cluster off of the branch first, then strip the berries from the cluster. Don't attempt to pick the berries one-by-one."

Date 2017-05-04
Link to this record only (permalink)

Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Ficus carica, Harvesting time

It's November, and my fig tree still has hundreds of hard green figs. Will they be the ones to ripen next spring?


There ought to be a simple answer to your worthwhile question, but according to Ben Pike's The Fruit Tree Handbook (Green Books, 2011), "It is very easy to become confused by the fruiting cycle of figs, because they carry different generations of fruit on the tree all at the same time. In the British climate [similar to Pacific Northwest], once the ripe fruits have been picked, there will be two types of fruit left on the tree. The larger ones, from about marble size upwards, are fruits produced this season that will not ripen properly. The fruits that will ripen next year are now the size of a pea or even smaller. They can be seen mostly on the final 20-30 cm. (8-12") of shoots that have grown this year. The larger fruits are likely to split or fall off during the winter. Removing all the fruits larger than a pea in November allows the tree to put its energy into developing small fruits ready for next season. In other words, the fruits need to develop over two seasons in our climate. It is the fruits that would normally develop and ripen over one season in a warmer climate that are removed in order to help the embryonic fruits develop by the following year."

There is similar information in Grow Figs Where You Think You Can't by Steven Biggs (No Guff Press, 2012). Here is a section of the book which is available online.
"It will break your heart, but there will be figs that don't ripen. As you tuck in your trees for the winter, remove any remaining figs that are bigger than the size of a pea."

You will sometimes see references to the breba crop and the main crop. Breba is an alteration of Old Spanish bebra, meaning twice-bearing, from Latin bifera. In terms of your fig, the breba crop is the first crop which ripens on last season's wood (the ones that are tiny right now). Steven Biggs says that the breba crop ripens as early as July in his climate (Ontario), and the main crop (figs which form on new growth) ripens in September or October, or sometimes not at all, depending on the weather. While some fig aficionados say the breba crop is inferior, he cherishes it because it may be the only one to ripen in a short-summer climate.

Not all varieties of fig produce a prolific breba crop; some produce only the main crop. The web page of California Rare Fruit Growers discusses this in detail.

Date 2018-04-05
Link to this record only (permalink)

Garden Tip

Keywords: Cucumis sativus, Harvesting time, Beans, Cooking, Vegetable harvesting

Keep harvesting all those beans, zucchini, cucumbers and other summer vegetables to keep the production going. Any fruit left to mature on the plant will cause flowering to slow and reduce the harvest. If you can't keep up with your bean plants why not try pickling? Here are some Web resources that give explicit safety instructions and recipes:

Date: 2007-04-03
Link to this record (permalink)

Didn't find an answer to your question? Ask us directly!

Browse keywords

Search Again:

May 31 2018 13:14:08