What is the best way to tell when apples and pears are ripe?

Gardens & Landscapes, Apples October 29, 2011 Print Friendly and PDF

Harvest time varies with individual tastes and locality. One may consider a fruit ripe, while another individual believes it is immature. However, fruit picked too soon does not store well and does not develop full flavor. Probably the most reliable index is the number of days after bloom: Red Delicious takes 135 to 155 days from full bloom to harvest, whereas Granny Smith takes 170 to 180 days from full bloom to harvest. Other factors to consider include seed maturity; in most cases the seed of mature apples will be turning black. Also the background color changes from green to yellow. Generally speaking, as red apples reach picking maturity, the green peel becomes slightly yellowish. Green or yellow varieties change from green to creamy white or yellowish as they reach maturity. The flesh of immature apples usually exhibits a greenish tinge. When ready to harvest, most varieties become a creamy white or yellow. Lastly, consider fruit drop. Normally, when natural fruit drop begins, harvest should be well under way. Some varieties may not taste fully ripe when they drop. However, apples continue to ripen off the tree. So store them for several days at room temperature in a cool part of the house until there is sufficient conversion of starches to sugar to give them a good ripe taste. The Oriental hybrid and European pears do not ripen well on the tree. They are ready to harvest when they change from hard to firm (firmness similar to a softball). Harvest maturity is usually indicated by a slight change in skin color from green to yellow. Mature fruit will begin to drop even though still hard if harvest is delayed. Most pear varieties reach harvest maturity in August and September. They should be picked and ripened off the tree. Pears remaining on the tree too long ripen poorly and have poor texture and flavor. Ripen pears at room temperature in a well-ventilated area. They will ripen in one to two weeks. Refrigerate the fruit after ripening until consumed or processed. For longer storage life, refrigerate unripe pears as near 32 degrees F as possible, and then ripen as desired.

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USDA / NIFA

This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.