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Home Orchard Society Forums - View topic - winter pear storage
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 winter pear storage 
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Joined: Wed Feb 20, 2008 8:10 am
Posts: 45
Location: Springfield, OR, USA
Post winter pear storage
Okay, okay, so I just picked up a computer yesterday after months without, and access to a web connect happens only on in-town visits (like, right _now_), hence this maniacal HOS forum flurry in case you were wondering. (smile)

Here's the meat of a reply just back from Dave Sugar, arguably the U.S.'s foremost authority on pear storage. He's with the OSU outta Medford. Not surprisingly his focus is on Controlled Atmosphere storage of the key commercial varieties, whereas my research interest is in home/homestead-based non-CA, non-refridgerated storage. Dave zeroed in, I sense, on my the key long-term research challenge for the low-techies among us:

"It is likely that in pre-refrigeration times, the ability of pears to be
conserved with modestly cool temperatures was a factor in the selection
of varieties for planting."

Varietal selection, yes indeedee. The rest of his reply is attached to the foot of my post.

If anyone has any anecdotal info to share around climacteric fruit storage (apples and pears, but it _does_ sound impressive to drop such pomologically sophisticated patois, dunnit?) would you be so kind as to let it fly. Likewise any pointers to relevant knowhow would be most appreciated.

n

--

Nick,

A motherlode of such gnosis I know not of. My understanding is that the
storage of pears pre-refrigeration depended upon using other means to
keep them as cold as possible without freezing. I checked my shelves,
and in the book "Fruit Harvesting, Storing, Marketing" by F.A. Waugh,
published 1901, he describes in some detail the construction of an
ice-based storage house for fruit, and also describes a ventilation
system for bring cold air from the outside into a storage room in a
controlled fashion. Although he does not mention it, an effective
ventilation system would reduce the concentration of ethylene in the
storage chamber, which would contribute to storage quality. I would be
happy to photocopy the relevant pages of that book for you if you wish.
I have several other references that deal with the early days of
refrigeration, but not pre-refrigeration.

Otherwise, I am sure that at the homeowner or small farm level, storage
of winter pears in underground fruit cellars was common. Storage in
caves has also been practiced historically, and I believe was until
recently a major means of fruit storage in China.

It is likely that in pre-refrigeration times, the ability of pears to be
conserved with modestly cool temperatures was a factor in the selection
of varieties for planting. In addition, I am sure that expectations for
the length of storage life were vastly lower than they became
post-refrigeration.

On the subject of winter pears developing the capacity to ripen, I have
done studies in the last 3 years that show that the capacity to ripen is
most efficiently developed at warmer temperatures than previously
thought. The "chilling requirement" for winter pears to develop the
capacity to ripen when subsequently brought to room temperature is
satisfied in a shorter time at 41 F than at 31 F. We have found the
optimum (fastest) temperature for chill satisfaction to be 50 F. Warmer
than about 55 is ineffective. In non-refrigerated pear storage, this
would probably work against the success of attempts at long term storage
at temperatures above 32 F, but nevertheless keeping the fruit as cold
as possible is the single most effective practice for promoting
keepability.

Wrapping pears in paper during storage was also practiced to conserve
fruit moisture and thus prevent shrivel.

I hope this is helpful. Please let me know if you come up with other
approaches.


Thu Nov 13, 2008 5:24 pm
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Joined: Sun May 15, 2005 10:57 am
Posts: 1406
Location: Portland, OR
Post Winter pears
I think we better figure this stuff out while we still have all the oil, electricity, etc. It will be harder to figure out when we really need to use it in a few years and we don't have all the fancy energy we have now.

Personally I have grown Bartlett style pears and have found them to be delicious and a little bit of timing. You've got to know when to pick them, how to ripen etc. I have no knowledge of winter pears but as H. Ross Perot would say, "I'm all ears".
John S.
PDX OR


Thu Nov 13, 2008 10:37 pm
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Joined: Thu Jan 27, 2005 11:27 pm
Posts: 1186
Location: Yamhill County, Oregon
Post 
Nick,

thank you for this dissemination of knowledge, we’ve all had personal correspondence with like authorities but rarely transfer their information as accurately as we’d like. This works!

On the family homestead of nearly a century I’ve listened close to the old-time methods of preserving the harvest; from the root cellar location and design; burying barrels on a north facing hillside with their produce packed in sawdust, to loading up the well-house with boxes of the best keeping apples. In other words, “using other means to keep them as cold as possible without freezing.”

I also consider the following a necessity: “a ventilation system for bring[ing] cold air from the outside into a storage room in a controlled fashion.” “…an effective ventilation system would reduce the concentration of ethylene in the storage chamber, which would contribute to storage quality.” – After losing several boxes (over several years) of pristine Comice and Anjou ‘winter’ pears to interior brown rot while stored in a basement refrigerator (though their outside appearance was fine), then hearing the same problem described by fellow HOS members, I’ve long since given up on storing pears… My conclusion is that modern ‘controlled’ refrigeration and oxygen displacement methods are what have allowed the ‘winter pear’ industry to develop and thrive. There seems no ‘natural method’ of long-term storage that achieves anything near the duration and controlled ripening of today’s commercial packers. Very few of my generally abundant winter pear crop reach that ‘creamy sweet’ consistency of what’s most often available at a good sized grocery store, sad to say.

“It is likely that in pre-refrigeration times, the ability of pears to be conserved with modestly cool temperatures was a factor in the selection of varieties for planting. In addition, I am sure that expectations for the length of storage life were vastly lower than they became post-refrigeration.” – That seems a very accurate observation, and I’m afraid we’re simply spoiled! Some past friends knew of my interest in fruit trees and asked if I'd ID one of their old yet best keeping pears. I pegged it as a “Kiefer.” I’ve always had older friends refer to various pears on their homestead's as a “Woodshed pear,” an “Outhouse pear,” or a “Christmas pear,” generally small, rock-hard, yet great keeping winter pears.

So I must agree that ‘varietal selection’ was likely the key to having pears for the Solstice in pre-refrigeration days. My “Highlands,” “Comice” and “Anjou” would never make it on their own… but something like a “Kiefer” might..? [Kiefer pear: “This is a hybrid pear - probably a cross between the Chinese sand pear and Bartlett - that was named in 1876 by Peter Kieffer. Although its internal quality is inferior to European pears such as Bartlett, Anjou, and Bosc, it was grown extensively in the USA in the first part of the 1900’s. As a tree it is resistant to fireblight - a major disease of European pears grown in humid regions.”]

“Wrapping pears in paper during storage was also practiced to conserve fruit moisture and thus prevent shrivel.” – This holds true for me. Again – thank you for your ‘manic posting’ and the excellent information. It’s a shame our society's not better prepared to grow their own food in this time of economic peril, but it’s a wonderful thing that we’ve this opportunity to catch up.

…Just found this tidbit: “Winter pears may take up to six weeks to ripen after being picked. Some, notably Anjou and Comice, require four to six weeks of refrigeration to ripen properly. Winter pears will keep about two to three months and Winter Nelis can be stored all winter” – Problem is, it was that ‘six weeks’ that usually did mine in :?

_________________
Temperate Orchard Convservancy: http://www.temperateorchardconservancy.org/index.php


Fri Nov 14, 2008 12:13 pm
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Joined: Wed Feb 20, 2008 8:10 am
Posts: 45
Location: Springfield, OR, USA
Post 
Just the kind of anecdotal feedback I was hoping for, Viron. Thank you.

Yes, the picture surrounding our initial attempts at long term pear storage look damning but I have picked up on enough evidence from various sources to suggest that long term winter pear storage was once commonplace - if not here, most definitely in Europe. The names of many dessert pears suggest they were eaten at least through Christmas ('Santa Claus' is one of the varieties I am storing just now, pulled in from Corvallis) and indeed in some places (France, for example) Xmas may have been considered a highpoint of the pear-eating season. How long the dessert pears carried I don't yet know but kitchen (or 'cooking') pears were eaten long after the dessert pears went down, I believe. I don't have strong confirmation yet, but evidence so far seems to be pointing to the kitchen pears carrying through at least February and perhaps much later. I have a 4lb (Corvallis-sourced) Pound pear (also known, I read, as Belle Angevine and Uvedale’s St. Germaine, originating sometime prior to 1690 - and perhaps dating back to Roman days) which, in England of old, was cooked whole, in pastry, in the spring. Early or late spring I have no idea, but I suspect the mid-to-latter end of things. Picking up a Pound is like picking up a rock. Before putting up this pear, I dipped its stem in wax to restrict respiration - something I have seen in pictures of French pears in storage, confirmed by a friend with contacts in France.

The pressing question, I sense, is not whether long-term pear storage can be done without CA or high-energy-input refrigeration but, rather, which varieties are best suited to the role; how do we handhold them to ripening properly many months down the line; and how are they best eaten then.

I wouldn't be surprised if the chilling requirements of the 'moderns' make them especially unsuitable for long-term non-CA storage.

Answering the pear storage question in particular has potentially enormous implications. When I was with Joe P. a couple of weeks ago I mentioned my intuition that one of the very biggest brakes on the uptake of pear diversity by grassroots growers relates to an endemic uncertainty surrounding pear ripening. Pears of New York: "Perhaps of all deciduous fruits the pear needs as particular attention to the various operations which conduct it from the orchard to the table as any other, if, indeed, it is not the most difficult of hardy fruits to handle after it leaves the orchard." Joe averred to the hypothesis. Put simply, getting a handle on the long-term home-based storage of pears will be an absolutely critical milestone, I sense, in saving/restoring pear diversity. It seems clear that no one else but the grassroots orchardist is in a position to carry this baton.

I am most definitely picking up on the separate threads of an integrative approach to storage - ventilation to void the ethylene, as you mention, but not too much to dehydrate the fruit. Ethylene is lighter than air, did you know? Ripening long-stored pears may well, I sense, prove easier than we think, once we hone our approach. The fertilization approach for storage varieties, is significant in itself, never mind varietal and rootstock selection, harvest timing and storage and ripening techniques. Apples, too, of course.

A public-domain vegetable breeder once told me that sourcing the finest genetics from around the world saved him decades of breeding work. Hence this investigative foray. Why reinvent the wheel if a solid contact or two may save us decades of experimentation? Karen T. and Joe P. have forwarded me some European contacts and I will try and work them. There has to be some key knowhow lurking in France and Italy, for example. Wouldn't it be nice if we found a friend or two over the Pond?

I seem to recall we have an HOS member in France. Where do I find her/his details?

n


Fri Nov 14, 2008 11:09 pm
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Joined: Sun Apr 01, 2007 4:23 pm
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Location: Monmouth Oregon
Post 
How much of this discussion applies to asian pears? It sounds like the storage problems I'm having are the same as for European pears.


Tue Nov 18, 2008 2:06 pm
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Joined: Wed May 09, 2007 9:18 am
Posts: 111
Location: Corvallis, Oregon USA
Post 
All right, another local! I'm now just down the road in Buena Vista; though so far only have one Bosc pear tree (with one Bartlett pollinator branch) which came with our new place to worry about storing fruit from. Though do have a Taylor's Gold pear tree on order for delivery next spring:)
Dave
lotus026@yahoo.com


Wed Nov 19, 2008 11:17 am
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Joined: Wed Feb 20, 2008 8:10 am
Posts: 45
Location: Springfield, OR, USA
Post 
Frank, hi. I don't know at this juncture how much of the european pear story applies to the Asians. My sense is that Asians, given the right variety of course (and there are some, I believe, noted as keepers) may be a good deal less fussy than the europeans.

I am very new to this but my sense is that asian pears may be non-climacteric fruit, unlike apples or pears. And if they are indeed climacteric, I sense they will be easier characters to handle.

http://www.quisqualis.com/Climacteric.html

Nevertheless, the same basic home-based storage procedures will apply. Here is an excellent summary:

http://extension.oregonstate.edu/catalog/html/fs/fs147/


Thu Nov 20, 2008 3:34 pm
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Joined: Wed Feb 20, 2008 8:10 am
Posts: 45
Location: Springfield, OR, USA
Post Winter pears I am currently storing
Here's a quick summary of the pears I sourced from Joe P.'s 'garden' three weeks ago and which I am currently carrying on covered shelves under an awning around my trailer, which is parked at the Food For Lane County youth farm where I live.

Selection was done on the fly in the pouring rain. Simply put, I selected fruit what was available, assuming that it was likely a keeper variety. I was surprised to see how relatively few of the 2,000 accessions at the repository were still hanging. My impression is that I see far more apples in greater abundance on trees this time of year. I took 3-5 fruit, where I could, of everything that was available. As you can see, the list is relatively short.

I haven't yet had an opportunity to get to grips with varietal specifics (what a blessing it will be to be able to devote years to that investigation), but I am picking up immediate information - often from turn-of-the-last-century sources - about the best means to house fruit. To summarize a rising literary tide: "At first thought it seems that cooling by ventilation [as distinct from refrigeration or ice storage] would prove inadequate, but wide experience has shown that, properly managed, a house cooled by ventilation is perfectly satisfactory for fruit storage in any of the the northern states." - Fruit, Harvesting, Storing and Marketing, by F.A. Waugh, Orange and Judd Company, 1901. David Sugar, the OSU pear storage expert out of Medford was kind enough to furnish me with a photocopy of the relevant pages. There is fascinating information in there about grape storage, too.

At first, I found the whole pear storage idea very intimidating (and living in the middle of a field doesn't exactly lend itself to a bells-and-whistles approach), but a little bit of experience is quietening the nervousness somewhat. So far, to my knowledge, I haven't lost a single pear to core rot. I'm eating about 7-10 pears a week. Two key factors seem to play a role. 1. Watching color. 'Yellowing' is a key harbinger of ripening just now. 2. Holding the fruit and feeling the 'give'. I have found it particularly useful to press gently into the pear around the stem with my finger or thumb. The pears give there far more notably than they do around their body. [Can anyone provide me with any online pointer providing a summary of correct pomological language to describe pear physiology and the like?].

I do not think this ID approach will continue to work. I read that some of the winter pears, suitable only for culinary purposes (commonly called 'kitchen' or 'cooking' as distinct from 'dessert' pears) never soften and change color little or not at all. They are the pears that will store longest, I sense. As the weeks pass, I suspect the ripening story will ripen.

Getting hold of relevant pear information is a smallish challenge. I see googlebooks has made the entire "Apples of New York" freely available online. Not so "Pears of New York."

Here's the list of pears I'm currently working with:

Pound http://www.ars-grin.gov/cgi-bin/npgs/ac ... 0PI+131232
Vicar of Winkfield http://www.ars-grin.gov/cgi-bin/npgs/ac ... 0PI+541457
Forelle http://www.ars-grin.gov/cgi-bin/npgs/ac ... 0PI+541191
Passe Crassane http://www.ars-grin.gov/cgi-bin/npgs/ac ... 0PI+131662
White Star http://www.ars-grin.gov/cgi-bin/npgs/ac ... 0PI+541282
Notaire Lepin http://www.ars-grin.gov/cgi-bin/npgs/ac ... 0PI+541235
Dorset http://www.ars-grin.gov/cgi-bin/npgs/ac ... 0PI+541174
Dryden
Pitona Slanopadja http://www.ars-grin.gov/cgi-bin/npgs/ac ... 0PI+483405
Belle Angevine http://www.ars-grin.gov/cgi-bin/npgs/ac ... 0PI+215322
Nouveau Poiteau http://www.ars-grin.gov/cgi-bin/npgs/ac ... 0PI+246419
Lawrence http://www.ars-grin.gov/cgi-bin/npgs/ac ... 0PI+541212
Santa Claus http://www.ars-grin.gov/cgi-bin/npgs/ac ... 0PI+215329
Count W. Moltke http://www.ars-grin.gov/cgi-bin/npgs/ac ... 0PI+295087
Doyenne d’Hiver http://www.ars-grin.gov/cgi-bin/npgs/ac ... 0PI+541307
Bon Cretien d’Hiver http://www.ars-grin.gov/cgi-bin/npgs/ac ... 0PI+255609
Dana Harvey http://www.ars-grin.gov/cgi-bin/npgs/ac ... 0PI+541169
Sucre Rose http://www.ars-grin.gov/cgi-bin/npgs/ac ... 0PI+224553
Bon Chretien Bonnamour? http://www.ars-grin.gov/cgi-bin/npgs/ac ... 0PI+541152
OHF 18 03-29 http://www.ars-grin.gov/cgi-bin/npgs/ac ... 0PI+541397
Jules d’Airolees http://www.ars-grin.gov/cgi-bin/npgs/ac ... 0PI+386006
Lange Graticol http://www.ars-grin.gov/cgi-bin/npgs/ac ... 0PI+264195
Scipiona http://www.ars-grin.gov/cgi-bin/npgs/ac ... 0PI+286220
Emile D’Heyst http://www.ars-grin.gov/cgi-bin/npgs/ac ... 0PI+131460
Anjou Dwarf http://www.ars-grin.gov/cgi-bin/npgs/ac ... 0PI+541118


Thu Nov 20, 2008 4:39 pm
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Location: Willamette Valley near Scio
Post 
Looks like you will get a gold star for hard work and persistence. I wonder which of those pears will store the longest?

I did not see the pear on your list that stores until July of the following year.


Thu Nov 20, 2008 7:12 pm
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Fri Nov 21, 2008 11:19 am
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Joined: Wed Feb 20, 2008 8:10 am
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Location: Springfield, OR, USA
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Thanks for the suggestion, plumfun. I have been reading about how old timers would open up their storage houses in the night in the run up to putting fruit in them, shutting them up during the day, leaving them open during major cold snaps and suchlike, so you are right on the ball with that low tech approach, updated for Springfield white trailer trash (moi) in the new millenium!

As per your sly remark <grin> about holding pears over to July, did I say ‘July’? If so, I mighta been a tad optimistic on that one! (smile) Then again, ‘Pears of New York’ tells me that one of the varieties I’m currently carrying, ‘White Star’, has “fruit as of the size of Bartlett, keeping until May and June, and good for dessert.” But I’m a mite suspicious of that entry, not least because the superlongkeeping pears seem largely suited for culinary rather than dessert use. Pound, I sense will go long, and a couple of others have descriptions which suggest they have been carried into mid-to-late spring in the past. But this all presumes good fruit, harvested correctly and stored well. And that's a rich story many years in the learning. Certainly, the commercial growers can go that long without too much ado, taking Winter Nelis 7-8 months in cold storage and 8-10 months in Controlled Atmospheres. But I haven’t yet discovered a motherlode of ‘lost’ pear varieties that will easily carry as long as the rich variety of long-keeping apples we have access to – but who knows, there may be one or two surprises in store.

Frankly though, I’ll be surprised if I can carry any of my pears through December. Fundamentally, my storage setup appears too primitive. Interestingly, I have a sense that the primary snafu for me just now is not my inability to keep temperatures low but, rather, my ability to isolate various varieties from one another. This is a significant discovery for me. Here’s my quickie take on the wherefores.

One of my major booklearning realizations in recent weeks has been the claim, in several texts, that postharvest chilling is not actually necessary in order to ripen winter pears successfully. The chilling requirement had been the great challenge, as I had perceived it, in ripening many cultivars of long-storing pears, because the contemporary literature I’m encountering insists, for the most part, that refrigeration and/or temperatures well below what my storage abilities are capable of, are necessary to carry winter pears to edibility. Perhaps this emphasis has much to do with the fact that most of the literature focuses on the concerns of commercial growers.

Here’s OSU's David Sugar, for example: “Postharvest chilling induces the capacity to ripen in winter pears, and it promotes uniform ripening throughout the flesh of individual fruit as well as synchronizes ripening among fruit in a lot. The amount of postharvest chilling required differs among winter pear cultivars and is influenced by fruit maturity. Bosc pears may ripen to a buttery texture at room temperature without exposure to cold…Bosc harvested in the early half of the maturity range may need 2 to 4 weeks of postharvest chill for proper ripening. Anjou pears may need from 60 days of chilling when harvested early to 30 days when harvested late in the maturity range. Comice pears typically require 30 days of chilling.”

And the further I looked, the more that chilling appeared to be an absolutely essential requirement for the long-term storage of most cultivars. Here’s David, again: “Proper management of fruit maturity is probably the single most important factor affecting the storage quality of winter pears…Fruit harvested early in the maturity range have the greatest potential to maintain good quality in the long-term storage. The later fruit are harvested, the faster quality deteriorates during storage and the greater the fruit susceptibility to fungal decay during storage.” Put another way, the earlier we harvest, the better the storageability, but the correspondingly greater demand for chilling. Hardly a recipe to warm the heart of a low-techie such as myself.

But the further I have gone into the literature, especially the older material, the more I have encountered clear evidence that chilling isn’t actually the Holy Grail that modern literature emphasizes. I’ll hold off on all but the barest details (the futher in ya go the bigger it gets as they say - current reading is, egads, the book “Postharvest Biology of Apples and Pears” out of the East Malling Research Station in '73) except to say here’s how one modern scientific abstract puts it. The ubiquitous David Sugar, again: “Winter pear cultivars are unique in requiring postharvest cold treatment to induce autocatalytic ethylene production and develop the capacity to ripen. The necessity for postharvest cold treatment may be overcome by exposure to ethylene at relatively warm temperatures.” Or, in low tech, old-school lingo, confirmed by older texts, it appears we can do away with chilling by placing ripening fruit next to the fruit we want to ripen. There will be a wrinkle or two to that story, of course, but the essence is, Ethylene Is Our Friend.

I can, of course, be an ‘enemy’ too. And this brings me to why I have a strong sense my porch-based storage facility appears to be letting me down just now. I have 25 varieties of pears all stored together. My earlier-ripening varieties with my later-ripening varieties. I’ve been checking them every morning (“Who’s breakfast?”) and yesterday, the scent of pears had picked up markedly. Volatile esters. All of a sudden, what I have on my hands is an ethylene-producing factory, a “Ripening Machine”, and I strongly suspect that I am going to have a tsunami of ripening pears on my hands in the next couple of weeks, no matter what the outside temperature does. Much as one can lengthen pear storage by keeping ethylene levels low, so the presence of ethylene prompts an intensifying ethylene flush. A 'Come Join the Party" thang.

I have an odd sense that taking the pears off my ‘semi-enclosed’ shelves and keeping them in a basket in the open air may actually help delaying ripening at this juncture. One of the triggers for my interest in winter storage derived from witnessing a friend who kept a basketful of Goldrush on his porch through the course of the past couple of winters, weathering the full gamut of porch weather, including freezes. The apples kept through the end of March. I suspect that one reason they kept so well, given the rough-and-ready setup, was because of the ventilation that an open basket afforded – airing off the ethylene. Literature suggests there appears to be an interesting dance with pears in particular. They need ventilation, but are more sensitive than apples to too much of it.

Oh, on the subject of apples, this caught my attention this week. From a 1901 text:

--

In an experiment made by the Canadian Experimental Farms, in which several varieties of apples were stored until May 28th, the order of superiority in keeping quality was as shown below. The figures give percentages of apples remaining sound at the end of the experiment.

Ben Davis 100
Wagener 88
Rawle’s Janet 82
Winesap 82
Walbridge 73
Lawver 49
Pewaukee 29
Salome 20
Fameuse 12
Haas 0
Gideon 0
McIntosh 0
Anisovka 0

--

That 100% figure rather raises an eyebrow, doesn't it. Anybody have any experience with Ben Davis?

n


Sun Nov 23, 2008 4:03 pm
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Joined: Sun May 15, 2005 10:57 am
Posts: 1406
Location: Portland, OR
Post Storability of medlars, persimmons, quinces
Thanks Nick,
What a great post! That jibes with my experience and what I've heard about ethylene and early apples and pears being poor keepers. I have thought many times that we need high ceilings to vent off ethylene. I wonder if medlars could keep really well, because like pears, they are hard until you blet them, which means they soften and become sweet and edible. What about storability of persimmons? The hard ones that you can eat like apples seem to store for months! Most quinces seem the same. They fill up the room with wondrous aroma for weeks. I wonder if we separated them and chilled them if they'd last longer. I wonder.... I wonder.............
JohnS
PDX OR


Sun Nov 23, 2008 11:19 pm
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Joined: Sat Apr 07, 2007 11:28 pm
Posts: 498
Location: Willamette Valley near Scio
Post 
Good post Nick!

There is always the option of keeping pears in liquid form in a carboy, over yeast sediment. That will keep longer than fresh fruit, obvously. I think if the pears are ground and pressed under a CO2 or nitrogen atmosphere, all the vitamin C would be preserved as well. Certainly it would cut down on oxidation. Then you could learn an affinity for mildly alcoholized beverages over the winter!

If it's good enough to keep old timers from starving, it's good enough for me!

I understand that the long keeping Pound Pear is also close kin in flavor and texture to the long keeping Idaho potato. Just something to get by on when there is nothing tastier! Certainly not delectable.


Mon Nov 24, 2008 12:06 pm
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