Selecting a pear for ripeness

With some fruits it’s easy to tell when they’re ripe and ready to eat. Color and scent are often great indicators of how much sugar developed in a fruit as it hung on the tree. Pears are unlike most fruit in that their sugars continue to develop after they’ve been picked and in most cases, their color does not. A pear with a fine blush may make for a beautiful fruit to display but is not an indicator of quality or ripeness.

A closeup of a Taylor's gold pear with a Warren and Bosc pair in the background.

Yellow skin on a Bartlett pear indicates a good level of ripeness, however the Bartlett is rare in its color shift. An Anjou pears may also yellow, but is an indication of the fruit being over-ripe. Overall, trust your nose and–as you might with an avocado–trust the feel of the fruit. Press gently around the stem where ripeness first announces itself. Squeezing the body of the fruit can lead to undesired bruising and if the body of the pear gives too easily it is likely to be overripe. Pears which are firm or hard around the stem are unripe or underripe.

Wrinkling around the stem is an indication of ripeness on this Frog Hollow Golden Russet Bosc.

A great visual indicator of a ripe and ready to eat pear is wrinkling around the stem. If you need a firmer or less-ripe pear for cooking, check for the start of wrinkling and do a press-test around the stem. A bit of give around the stem and less in the body can allow the pear to hold up better when baking.

Pears which need time to ripen should be placed on a countertop away from direct sunlight. While pears are hardier than some fruit, clumping or clustering them in a bowl may lead to bruising before you know it. Putting your pears near (or in a paper bag with) a banana or other high-ethylene producing fruit will hasten the process.

Photos on this page by Kimi Owens, a contributor and editor of this site. Images are licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

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