Finding, choosing and preparing organic pears
While pears are available at most markets year-round, they’re picked between August and September in southern U.S. states, and between September and October further north. Orchards abound in six primary states – California, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York, Oregon and Washington – and smaller farms can be found sprinkled across the remainder of the country. At Florida Crystals®, we recommend looking for an organic grower to maximize your experience. After that, just follow these simple steps to ensure a fun and fruitful pear-picking endeavor.
1. Call ahead, and come prepared
Farmers love to talk about the crops they grow, as the passionate farmers at Florida Crystals will attest. So, before you trek across town or over state lines to pick your fill of pears, give the farm a shout. They’ll happily tell you which varieties they grow and what’s ripe at the moment. Below are a few standard items they might recommend you bring along.
- Comfortable, sensible clothing is key for a day of picking pears. You’ll be out in nature, likely climbing ladders and carrying your day’s haul, so remember to wear durable, practical clothing.
- Drinks, snacks and sunscreen make for a more enjoyable trip. Water is great to stay hydrated, and any sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or more will keep the sun at bay. When it comes to snacks, we recommend baking up a batch of our vegan, gluten-free Compost Cookies, or even packing yourself a Bento Box using this handy guide.
- Bags or baskets make it easy to tote the lovely pears you’ve picked safely around the orchard and bring them back to your waiting car. Some farms will have containers available for you to use, but it’s best to bring your own along just in case. Your own basket can help keep pears from rolling around in your car on the trip home.
2. Know your pears to pick them at the right time
Pears come in a number of varieties that fall within three major categories – European fall pears, European winter pears, and Asian pears. Understanding these categories is important for a few reasons, but the most critical is knowing when they’re ready to pick.
- European fall and Asian pears should be picked when they’re ripe and do not need time to ripen indoors before they’re ready to eat. When ripe, there should be a tight, springy feel to the surface of the fruit, and it should pull easily away from the tree Pear varieties in these categories include Bartlett, Clap Favorite and Orca, among others.
- European winter pears should be picked before they’re fully ripe and kept in a cool, dark place in your home. This allows them to mature fully, free from the threat of bugs, weather damage, and other concerns. It also allows them to stay fresh for longer, so you’re not in a rush to use them up immediately. Pear varieties in this category include Bosc, Comice and Highland.
- With any variety of pears, be sure to look for “drops,” as fully ripened pears dropping from a tree usually means the rest of the fruit on that tree is fully ripe and ready to be picked. It’s an easy indicator you can spot at a distance before sidling up to a tree to start filling your bushel.
3. Putting your pears to good use
No one here at Florida Crystals® will fault you for wanting to whip up a batch of Poached Pears with Creamy Quark right away, but have our tips for keeping your fresh produce useful longer in mind as well.
Wondering which recipes to pair your pears with? We recommend serving European fall pears and Asian pears raw in salads and coleslaws. They add a crispness that borders on a crunchy texture, making them ideal for these kinds of recipes. European Winter Pears, on the other hand, can take up to a month to fully ripen after harvesting. So, if you want to enjoy them immediately, it’s best to bake them. Baking creates a magnified flavor that’s ideal for pies, tarts and other baked treats. Note: Baking or cooking ripe pears will give them an applesauce-like texture.
Between crafting some pear recipes, and canning some of your haul in the form of our Easy Pear Sauce, you’ll have pears to enjoy for months to come! You’ll be able to savor the delicious taste of hand-picked pears made with unrefined, homegrown sweetness that you can feel good about with every bite.