|My Red Anjou pears began their three-week chill today.|
How to tell when a pear is ready to be picked
A pear will NOT ripen on the tree, so it must be picked before it's ripe. So how do you know when to pick it? Simply, you tilt the pear upward, lifting it from it's normal hanging position. If it comes off easily, it's mature and ready to be picked. Note: Bosc pears never come off easily, according to Oregon State University Extension. I guess with those, it's trial and error plus experience!
Chilling the pear so it will ripen properly
Pears will not ripen properly unless they go through a chilling period in the fridge. Commercial growers chill them at 30 to 31 degrees F, but Oregon State University Medford and UC Davis have been doing some research at different temperatures (http://postharvest.tfrec.wsu.edu/rep2009b.pdf). At 41 degrees F, the Anjou pear seems to need around two or three weeks of chill (as compared to at least 60 days at 31 degrees F). I'm going with 41 degrees F and three weeks since I don't have a way to chill a pear at 31 degrees F anyways.
Once the pears have gone through their chill period, you can bring them out on the counter to ripen. Mine went in the fridge today. Hopefully, I didn't pick them too late. If you do pick them a little late, it sounds like they don't get as sweet and can be mealy (yuck). Fingers crossed!