Newbie pear grower here.
I have 4 pear trees: Seckel, Bartlett, Warren and California. I planted the trees in 2020, and all four of them set fruit this year (Bartlett did last year, but not the other three).
Last year I left the Bartlett pears on the tree too long before picking. This year I have been going back through old threads on this site to find out how one can tell the proper time to pick a pear. I have seen recommendations to feel the stem end for softness or use the “tilt test.” So that answers that part of my question.
But I have also seen recommendations that some varieties need cold storage after picking and some don’t. Seckel and Bartlett were cited as varieties that don’t need cold storage, but what about Warren and California? Do I need to refrigerate those varieties after picking before I put them on the counter to ripen?
It doesn’t hurt to put them in the fridge, even if it doesn’t help. So when in doubt, chill them!
The rule of thumb on chilling pears in the refrigerator is its usually better if you can than not for storage purposes only. “Refrigerate pears at a temperature of 30 to 32°F and a relative humidity of 90 percent until you are ready to ripen them”. That’s not really very reasonable to think you could chill all pears. Warren is very good without being chilled just like seckle or Bartlett. California is Max Red Bartlett x Comice so It’s the same class of pear California Pear | DWN Variety Finder . Since you know refrigeration slows down ripening but doesn’t stop it that gives you more time to consume the crop. Back to your question “Stone cells have very thick cell membranes” so if your bartlett ripens to perfection on the tree it has more stone cells because it was on the tree longer. It can ripen all the way on the tree. If you use the tilt test and remove the pears at that stage you avoid that gritiness. Some pears will not ripen but rather rot on the tree instead. Bartlett is not that way. Everything I said so far is fact but now let’s get to the preference part. You have 2 types of pear growers those that believe in refrigeration and those that don’t. This article explains those that do PLENTIFUL PEARS:A GUIDE TO BUYING AND EATING THEM - The New York Times and Picking and Storing Apples and Pears
This explains those that don’t ripen pears in the refrigerator Ripening and Handling -
Back to my own practical experience it’s my opinion that if you plan to consume these pears immediately or can them they do not have to be chilled. Once the pear is off the tree no further stone cells develop. If you do refrigerate high quality pears a couple of days it can make a difference in texture. Here is why I say that, as an example last year Duchess D’ Angoulme ripened slower on the tree than normal and the flavor was better but so was the texture. Apples that ripen later have great texture and flavor. Back to the stone cells remember what they are now imagine Duchess had warm daytime temperatures and cold nights over a very long period that’s what happened last year. This shows just how many pears there were A windfall of windfalls! . What I’m getting at is California is a unique climate because it’s not overly hot it’s just right to ripen fruit. Gritiness can be a bigger problem in some climates than others. Your pears should not be gritty unless you get some storm or insect damage on the skin sometime in the development process.
I would suggest keeping notes on your trees and try to fine tune approximately when the good picking times are for your location. Some pears will go bad on the tree (from inside out) if you wait for them to pass the tilt test, even some are stubborn to separate and already going bad. That can happen very fast in the heat. In my experience, for some of the pears, just a bit early is ok, especially if you want long storage times. For example, for me last year, Magness (just like Warren) and Concorde blew off the tree in a storm at least three weeks before they would have passed the tilt test. The storm actually did me a favor in terms of having pears that would store. I put them in the fridge and let them ripen in cold storage and they were fantastic. Concorde kept from Aug 23 until July this year. The Concorde that I left on the tree until Sept 18 when they passed the tilt test, and which looked just fine on the outside, did not store well at all. On Sept 16, I ate some Magness that had blown down early (Aug 23) and they were fantastic! So, keep notes, and fine tune what works for your location. Maybe set auto reminders to start checking your trees on certain dates. You know when was too late for you last year, so you can start checking sooner this year. There might be some slight variability from one year to the next, but for me, Parker and Flemish Beauty, in my location are ripe Aug 15. I can put that in stone. Doesn’t really matter what the weather did, hard winter, late spring, whatever, those pears are ready to be picked on that date here.
When people farther south start talking on here about their pear harvests, I know it is time to start picking a few test pears. Thanks, guys!
Thank you, everyone, for all the great info!