How to Ripen Pears

Dessert, Fall, Featured Article, In Season, Recipes
on October 5, 2008
Mark Boughton Photography / styling by Teresa Blackburn

We wish there was better way of knowing when a pear is ripe. What we remember most about making Pear Pie with Cornmeal Crumble was the angst of sniffing, pressing and just plain guessing about the fruit’s ripeness. That was before we read How to Pick a Peach by Russ Parsons (Houghton Mifflin, 2007) and learned pears are harvested when they’re hard and only then do they start to ripen. Also, they ripen from the inside out, which means when the outside is soft, the inside is mushy.

Whenever we’re in a hurry to make the pie, we follow Parsons’ instructions and put the pears in a paper bag to speed things along. Or, we let them ripen on the counter until they’re ever so slightly softer at the stem ends. Either way, it can be a tough call. That’s why we think a graduate student in food technology who’s looking for something to study could revolutionize the industry by creating a tag to attach to fruit—like a Post-It—that changes color when the fruit is ripe. Now, that would be progress.

By Jean Kressy, a food writer in Ashburnham, Mass.