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Looking for advice on keeping winter pears in Portland
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Author:  katydid [ Tue Nov 10, 2009 12:13 pm ]
Post subject:  Looking for advice on keeping winter pears in Portland

I have a lovely comice pear that produces gorgeous fruit and I can't seem to find the right way to store it and ripen it. Last year I kept them all in the crisper in my fridge, they wrinkled up and got dry and when I brought them out several weeks later only a few ripened.
This year I tried keeping them in a single layer in a straw lined box in my unheated basement and while the moisture level seemed right the temp was too warm and they didn't keep, or they ripened too quickly. I was able to save a few to dry but the rest were just mush :(
Anyone have any good inexpensive tricks for this? Comice pears are my favorite and it is heartbreaking to see most of the harvest go to the chickens.

Author:  Viron [ Tue Nov 10, 2009 5:57 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Looking for advice on keeping winter pears in Portland


It’s been a long time since I gave up on ripening or storing either Comice or D’Anjou ‘winter pears’… and I think you’ve just described everyone’s ‘Home Orchard’ experience :( Having stored mine in a ‘basement’ refrigerator they all developed a ‘brown rot,’ rotting from the cores -out.

My Father has better luck storing fruit in his 1948 Kelvinator Image ‘non’ frost-free refrigerator, and continues to suggested that. But a long-time HOS member smiled, saying, ‘that would only keep them from shriveling, not rotting.’ To keep them from rotting I’d have to treat them as the commercial pear growers do; store them in a cooler with the oxygen replaced by nitrogen. Even with a longtime friend in the refrigeration business … that didn’t pencil-out for me...

So, I feel your pain! I’ve got two productive Comice pear trees and a D’Anjou with “Highland” grafted as a pollinator. With consistent crops, what I can’t give away, or ‘crunch fresh,’ I grind into juice. If I want a ‘perfect pear’ I’m forced to pay three dollars a pound when purchasing them from a grocery store… like everyone else.

Since my pear trees are too well established to replace, I haven’t. But I would not recommend them… I would recommend a ‘classic’ Bartlett or a Bosc Image, one early the other later… Winter pears are apparently best left up to the Professionals. I’ll monitor this thread, but after 25 years in the organization … I’ve not yet learned the answer to your excellent question. – But welcome aboard

Author:  LeeN [ Tue Nov 10, 2009 7:50 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Looking for advice on keeping winter pears in Portland

It is my understanding that ethylene is the primary factor in the ripening process. Ethylene formation and off-gassing is complex but apples seem to have high amounts. A local fruit stand recently told me they cannot keep pears for very long because they have only one cooler. The presence of the apples dramatically shortens the time pears can be stored and pear quality (due to core browning).

Viron's father may be right. A no-frost refrigerator has a fan to circulate the air. A 1948 unit may be without a circulating fan. Ethylene (C2H4) is lighter than oxygen and would, given sufficent time, stratify if no fan was moving the air. Theoretically, fruit stored in the lower shelves would be exposed to lower concentration levels of ethylene and therein ripen more slowly.

Someone gave me some "Debbie Meyer" green bags touted to absorb and remove ethylene gas. The bags are supposedly re-useable 8 to 10 times -- "rinse, allow to dry and re-use". I haven't used any yet as I eat most vegetables fresh from the garden but maybe the entire package of green bags could be placed in the refrigerator (without opening) to absorb the ethylene and then periodically removed to release the ethylene the bags supposedly absorbed.

It seems like an interesting research project and less expensive possibility than nitrogen atmosphere refrigeration systems.

Author:  John S [ Wed Nov 11, 2009 10:27 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Looking for advice on keeping winter pears in Portland

Keep in mind that the hardest part about pears is after they grow: when to pick them and how to ripen them. With Bartlett, I have good luck. With some other varieties, I pick them too late, or more frequently, too early and they never soften. I think a maturity chart for the Willamette Valley would help. Even with feeling for them to soften just a bit, and then lifting them to see when they naturally snap off, it can be tricky.
John S

Author:  quokka [ Thu Nov 12, 2009 10:02 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Looking for advice on keeping winter pears in Portland

I can tell you how I was able to successfully store/ripen Comice pears this fall. It may not work for the amount you have but it is cheap and easy enough to be worth a try.

Put a few pears in a plastic produce bag, the kind that most people use to bag everything in a grocery store. Close the bag most of the way, forming a "balloon" and then blow into it. When the bag puffs up, twist it closed and seal it off with a twist tie.

Doing this I have been able to store fresh picked Comice pears for the minimum 30 days and up in my new never-needs-defrosting frig, after which I can take out the ones I want to finish ripening on the counter. (Then balloon and seal the remaining pears.) Every one has been very nice.

By the way this trick also works for lettuces and other greens, and herbs.

Author:  lonrom [ Thu Nov 12, 2009 4:52 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Looking for advice on keeping winter pears in Portland

Some of it is the choice of varieties. Comice is more of a late fall pear than a really long keeping winter pear. The old Winter Nelis will keep in good condition far longer than Comice, and "Pound" pear has to stay in storage until March before it will ripen when taken out. Find a copy of The Pears of New York and you'll discover a number of old pears that are REAL winter pears, varieties from the time when root cellars were the main means of storage.

Author:  katydid [ Tue Nov 17, 2009 11:53 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Looking for advice on keeping winter pears in Portland

Thanks for the input everyone! I will try the balloon method, and look into the bags. Some day soon, when I have more than a tiny urban lot, I will look into 'real' winter pears (ah, another winter research project!). Or, maybe I could graft onto the comice? I have a bartlett too, so I do get some pears in the late summer, and they are lovely.

Author:  katydid [ Thu Dec 02, 2010 6:56 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Looking for advice on keeping winter pears in Portland

Just wanted everyone to know I tried the 'balloon bagging" storage method for my comice pears and it worked Fabulously. The skins were a little tough (I am blaming this years crummy weather for that) but I am just eating the last three perfectly ripened pears this week. Thank you so much for the information. My guess is the bags help keep the fruit appropriately moist and also sequesters them from other off gassing fruit and veg. A few in the back of the fridge even got frozen but still ripened up beautifully without rotting after thawing out. Hooray! I just used regular supermarket bags that you get in the produce department, and blew them up and knotted them off. It didn't seem to matter if the bags leaked slightly.

If I have better fruit set next summer I am going to have to buy a second pear ripening refrigerator. :)

Really hoping to get out to the HOS site and do some volunteering, and meet ya'll next year, if the honeybees will let me.

Happy holidays,


Author:  John S [ Thu Dec 02, 2010 8:06 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Looking for advice on keeping winter pears in Portland

I also had a smaller, but positive experience with pears this year. I know when to pick Bartlett: usually late August, but this year, they were September. They start to get soft at the neck and they come off easily at the stem. I tried that same method with my other kind (Comice, I think). They were full-sized but never ripened, even after like a month in a paper bag in previous years. I didn't know if they needed more maturing on the tree or 30 days of chilling after ripening. I picked them about a month later than the Bartlett this year, and they ripened right up in a paper bag. They were yummy. They needed the ripening on the tree, not the 30 days of cold storage. I loved Laura's post and sharing about what works for fruit.
John S

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