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IN SEASON

Prepare for Pears

August 31, 1995|RUSS PARSONS

It may seem hard to believe, with temperatures hovering in the upper 80s, but the California pear season is upon us.

In fact, picking of early season pears, which come from the Sacramento Delta area, wound up last week. Harvest is under way in the mountain districts around Mendocino.

Several pear varieties in the Pacific Northwest will come on later, but most of California's pears are Bartletts.

This year's California pear harvest should be about 15% less than last year's because of the spring rains, which hindered flowering and pollination. Prices are running a bit high but should drop in the next week or two as the mountain district pears come to market.

Those spring rains also brought good news. Because of the extended growing season (fruit hung on trees as much as 20 to 25 days longer than normal), this year's pears should be sweeter than usual.

"We got a very early bloom and then there was all that rain and cool weather, and that just really stretched out the season," says Bob McClain, research coordinator for the California Pear Advisory board and a former pear grower. "Pears are normally on the tree for 120 to 125 days before harvest. This year is as much as 150."

Although pears develop sugar on the tree, the other ripening processes don't take place until they've been picked. With Bartletts, there is a noticeable color shift as they ripen, from green pears that are crisp and acidic to golden pears that are buttery and sweet.

The process takes about a week, so if you've got pears that are a little harder than you'd like, set them aside at room temperature and check on them every day or two until they're ready. Once they're ripe enough, stick them in the refrigerator to keep.

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