"United we bargain, divided we beg."

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Lying Pears

Here is one of the pear trees, a few weeks ago. It looks the same today, but the foliage is yellower and not as thick. It is October, after all. Loaded with pears, seemingly. One other of the four pear trees still has a lot of fruit on it as well; the other two are earlier varieties and are long gone. We had a massive pear harvest this year from the antique Bartlett and the Comice, and so I wasn't in any kind of a hurry to harvest the last two trees. The only pressure I felt was that it would be nice to get the pears off the trees so that I could put the horses to graze in the orchard pasture before the first frost killed the grass. The horses would eat any pears they could find and founder. 

Yesterday evening while I was out with there goats, I saw and heard a flock of starlings knocking about in the pear trees. Figuring that the pears must be getting ripe if the birds were starting to peck at them, I decided to go out and get them down as soon as possible. Today I went out to gather a sackful of pears to trade to a friend for some pumpkins. I made a terrible discovery:

 The majority of the pears, seemingly intact and gorgeous, had in fact been eaten out by wasps. The trees were hung with hollow pears, thin-shelled and delicate like christmas tree ornaments,  and filled with yellow jackets. I think what happened is that the starlings peck at the pears, making a small wound, and then the wasps are drawn to the leaking juice and enter the pear through the hole and eat it from the inside out.

To make matters worse, the pears that hadn't yet been attacked were - although full sized - just as hard and green as they were a month ago. At that time, I picked a few pears and set them on the table to ripen, but they never did. They just sat there, stubbornly green. Homero, bizarrely, eats them like this, and so I didn't know if they would have eventually ripened or what, but I figured it couldn't hurt to just leave them until they started to fall on their own.

Above you see all the pears I could find which are solid - there are twenty-six of them. A few of them have bird strikes, but none have been invaded by insects yet.  But how to ripen them? I thought I remembered treading that some varieties of pears need to be chilled before they will ripen - and so a quick google search seems to confirm.  Supposedly, I should gold the pears at 32-35 degrees Farenehit for at least a week and up four months, and then bring them to room temperature for 7 - 10 days. How exactly I am supposed to do that I haven't the foggiest clue. I could refrigerate them, but I don't have room in my fridge for 26 pears. And my fridge isn't that cold, anyway. Nights this time of year average 55 degrees, so leaving them outside isn't likely to help.

That's probably the best I can do, though. As I said, we have already enjoyed a large and delicious crop of pears this year, so it isn't a tragedy if we don't make full use of this last harvest. Alternatively, my husband can eat them all green, the way he likes them.

Link: an extremely comprehensive guide to European Pear varieties, with photos and information about siting, disease tolerance, and uses. Great site. http://www.usapears.com/~/media/Files/Research%20Website%20Docs/Pear%20Encyclopedia/Pear%20Encyclopedia%2003-2011.ashx