Here is everything you need to know about harvesting pears, the types of pears and the many ways on how to store them and lengthen their shelf life while in storage.
Pears are a seasonal fruit. You find them at the beginning of Spring, where markets are abundant with these juicy, delicious, sweet fruits. With the exception of eating them as they are, there are various other ways to enjoy them, from baking, stewing, making preserves to canning, etc.
In these ways, you lengthen the storage life of your favorite fruits.
When you have such an abundance of fruit, you will need to find ways to store them for you to enjoy your favorite fruit well after the season ends.
Pears should be stored at 30 F (-1℃) and between 85 – 90 % humidity. Anything colder than this, the pears may become damaged, and anything warmer, they will ripen at a rapid rate. For example, Bartlett pears may be stored at this temperature for 2-3 months, while the winter varieties may be stored for 3-5 months under these conditions.
If you find that you have purchased too many pears and are unsure of how to store them, let us help you find constructive and effective ways of storing your pears for you to extend the shelf life and not cause wastage.
Before learning how to store pears, we should know a little about the different pear varieties in order for them to be properly stored for their maximum enjoyment.
Pears are, essentially, divided into two categories, winter and summer pears. The winter pears are:
- Anjou (red and green)
These types of pears are available mainly during winter for the simple reason that they store well.
Summer Pears, like those listed below, will only store for a few weeks unless preserved through canning, freezing, or drying. The only summer pear which will store well is the Bartlett. However, its shelf life is not as long as the winter pear.
- Bartlett (all types)
Once pears have been harvested the following steps are followed for effective and efficient storage:
- Choose containers that allow for good air movement over the top and on the sides. Containers such as crates, papier mache trays, polystyrene or wooden boxes are good examples.
- Select fruit that have their stalk intact, are slightly unripened, medium size and blemish free.
- Lay the pears in a single layer, not touching one another. Handle fruit carefully so as not to cause bruising.
- The different types of pears ripen at different stages and therefore should not be stored together. The midsummer types should be kept away from the late season ones, to prevent or speed up the ripening process.
- Pears absorb the smells of other foods very easily. Therefore they should be kept away from harsh smells such as paint, fertilizers and onions.
When pears arrive at your local greengrocer or supermarket from the suppliers or the farm, they have been stored in the refrigerator at very cold temperatures. It is important to note that pears are not picked off the trees when they are ripe, unlike other types of fruit. Pears ripen from the inside out after they have been picked.
A helpful tip when purchasing pears is to check the ripeness of pears. You can do this by applying gentle pressure at the top neck of the pear.
That being said, if you have chosen pears that have not ripened completely, are still firm to the touch, and depending on the variety of pears, these pears may be stored at room temperature, on your counter, for up to a week.
You are working on the premise that these pears, after harvest, have been stored in a refrigerator, and therefore will need time to ripen. A word of caution, we should never eat unripened pears. Leaving them on the counter gives the pears the time needed to ripen.
D’Anjou pears are greenish-yellow when ripe. Other yellow varieties lose almost all of the green skin colour during the ripening process.
The table below will give you an idea of the types of pears, their shelf life, and what temperatures they may be stored at.
Semi-ripened as well as ripened pears store very well in the refrigerator. Refrigeration extends the shelf life of the pears, especially if it’s done before the final ripening.
When storing pears in the refrigerator, place them into a perforated storage bag and store them in the vegetable crisper drawer. In this way, you may store your pears for up to 3 weeks. Regularly check on them to avoid pears from rotting and remove pears that have soft spots and blemishes.
It is important to note that unripened pears should not be stored in the refrigerator. If you store unripened pears in the fridge, they will not ripen but remain hard, flavorless, and have no real sweetness.
Pears which have been sliced may be stored in the fridge. To store sliced pears in the fridge, you need to place them into a fridge-safe container and store them in the fridge. Your refrigerator should be set at 40℉ (4℃).
Pear slices may also be stored in a freezer. To store sliced pears in a freezer, first, you will need to dry freeze your sliced pears. You do this by placing the sliced pears on a sheet into your freezer. Once they have frozen, you may store them in freezer-friendly bags or containers.
When you have an excess of pears, there are a few ways you may consider storing them, especially for the long term.
For home use, they may be stored in a mixture of sugar and water. The mixture may be filled into a freezer-safe bag with the sliced pears and stored in the freezer. In this way, you may store the pears for use for up to 6 months.
Another simple but effective way of storing pears at home is storing them as preserves, jams, and canned.
When storing pears in these ways, ensure the pears are not fully ripened and do not have any soft spots or blemishes.
The overripe pears may be made into jams, preserved, and stored in glass jars for a much longer period.
Canning pears, to store long term, you should ensure that the pears are firm and slightly under-ripe as these hold better during the canning process.
Under proper conditions and if stored correctly, pears can be stored well into Christmas and into Spring. Depending on the type of pears you have and whether they are fully ripened, pears may be stored in crates or on shelves.
When the pears are stored in this way, you should ensure that the pears are not touching one another and allow sufficient air to circulate the pears. The crates may be stored away in a dark room, away from moisture and at room temperatures of around 50℉ (10℃). You should regularly check on the pears, removing any pears which may turn brown or soft.
For longer shelf life, pears should ideally be stored at temperatures around 30 ℉ (1℃) or anything closest to that. Cold is an essential ingredient in storing pears. If temperatures are warmer, this means that the pears will start to ripen.
If the pears freeze, the pears will turn to mush, and you most certainly do not want that to happen. Not very enjoyable in either case. Therefore, a refrigerator is the ideal long-term storage for pears.
Another idea for storing pears, if possible, is to use an insulated but unheated outbuilding for storage over the winter months. Under these conditions, Bartlett pears can keep for three months and winter pears for five months.
Pears are a wonderful, flavourful fruit full of summery deliciousness. It is a pity that they come around just once a year. However, with these methods and ways I have spoken about, perhaps you may also be able to enjoy your favorite fruit well past the season ends.
When preserving your pears or making jams, you may not only enjoy them after the season ends, but you are also able to share these golden orbs of deliciousness with friends and family as gifts over Christmas, proving that under the best conditions, the storage life of pears may be lengthened.
Foodal: How to Store Pears
Taste of Home: Types of Pears
A Traditional Life: How to Harvest Pears and Keep Pears in Cold Storage
Gardening Know How: Pears Post Harvest
Oregon State University: Picking and Storing Apples and Pears
Garden Eco: Storing Pears