Seckel pears make me wish I had opera training. Seriously. I put the potato in the picture for some size reference: these are tiny little pears, but oh wow. What a sweet, soft decadent morsel!
Some context: I’m not a hard pear kid. I don’t like foods that make my teeth squeak. I like the softer pears- Royal Beurre, Beurre d’Anjou, and even a Barlett can be smooth enough for me. I’m not talking the nasty overripe mush business, just not the hardcore crisp of the winter pears.
I think half the glory of the Seckel is its size: the ripening is more uniform and the window of perfection is easier to catch. The other half is that it’s probably descended from wild pears outside Philadelphia rather than being the result of a lot of hybridizing and crossing and what not. This is the pear nature gave us.
How to tell when a pear is ripe
With pears, the trick is to ‘check the neck’, meaning press lightly on the pear up right by where the stem attached. If there’s a little give, it’s ready. Don’t wait for the body of the pear to be soft- that’ll be too late.
Here’s what makes a good pear so hard to find: pears ripe from the inside out, and they do NOT ripen nicely while on the tree. Pears left on the tree too long will have that mealy, sandy problem, and they are more likely to have the core rot. Thus, pears are picked ‘mature’ but not ‘ripe’. A little immature is better than a little over.
For your home pear trees, pick the pear up and, if ready, it’ll separate from the tree pretty easy. (Except Bosc. Bosc pears are not cooperative this way.)
How to ripen pears
A properly treated pear is then cooled for a little bit. What you get from the store ought to have already been cooled, but if (when) you grow at home, you’ll want to do this step for sure. How long varies by variety.
According to David Sugar from Oregon State University, Barlett pears just need a day or two, but the harder winter pears need as much as 2 to 6 weeks of cold. (How could you not study fruit when your last name is sugar and your first name means beloved? That has fruit grower written all over it.)
Cooling pears is not ripening pears, it’s just to stabilize the sugars. To ripen pears, put them somewhere cool-ish and not in direct sunlight. Mr. Sugar recommends this schedule for the most common pears on the market:
- Bartlett: 4 to 5 days
- Bosc and Comice: 5 to 7 days
- Anjou: 7 to 10 days
My completely-not-scientific experience with ripening Seckel pears says 1 to 3 days for them. Just check in with them regularly and eat with glee. (There were 4 Seckel pears when I first set up that photo. There’s only two left now. Grin!)