I've learned SO-O-O-O-O much this year – things about sewing, things about the computer, and – lots about pears.
Last year (2007) the tree was glorious when dressed in its spring blossoms, and of course it was loaded with fruit. We asked ourselves why we were ignoring the old pear tree when one of our favorite snacks is dried pears. We resolved that this year we would pick the pears. The spring of 2008 was cold and only the side of the tree hit most by the sun bloomed. Of course, we noticed less fruit. In late August, I researched when to pick the pears, discovering that time would be when the fruit separates easily from the twig, the flesh of the fruit feels springy, a few have dropped from the tree, and/or the color of the fruit changes from green to yellow. At least some of that criteria seemed to be met on September 10, and that's when we picked the fruit.
"Why didn't your dad pick the pears?" Mike asked from his perch on the ladder. I will never really know the answer. My first inclination was to say that he didn't like pears, but at Christmas Daddy would order pears from Harry & David or Pinnacle Orchards, and he enjoyed those with gusto. (I used to think that was the thing to do until I realized I live in the great Northwest and therefore I can just buy pears at the local produce or super market without paying the exorbitant price.) So, my guess on September 10 was that my dad didn't like the caliber of these particular pears and/or that he didn't care to put efforts into maintaining the tree to improve the fruit.
Having picked the tree, we brought the fruit into the house, and right away I began to be concerned. It wasn't ripening. Every day I would check the fruit, and I saw very little progress. So, returning to the computer for more research, I discovered that pears will not ripen unless put into cold storage for a recommended 2-3 weeks. At that point we had an estimated 70 pounds of pear fruit, and we had no room in the refrigerator. However, we were getting ready to go to town for about a week and that made for some possibilities.
First, I graded the pears – tossers, culls, smallish / blemished, and prime specimen. The tossers went to the composter while all but the culls were placed in the refrigerator here after I cleaned it out. The culls I put in a box and took to town for storage in the refrigerator there. As I suspected, the culls ripened gradually, a few at a time. From those I made several pies, pear cobbler, pear crisp, and pear gingerbread.
I didn't have enough time to deal with the pears in the refrigerator here until this current stay. When I removed the two large containers from the refrigerator, the fruit began to ripen immediately. Of course, I lost some of it to the composter – a worthy cause – which also benefited from the parings. The rest of the pears I am peeling, slicing, and spreading on trays for the dryer.
Pears – a beautiful tree, difficult fruit. KW