Harvesting and Storing Apples and Pears
by Don Janssen, Extension Educator
In order to obtain the highest quality fruit, apples and pears must be harvested at the proper stage of maturity. Once harvested, proper storage is necessary to maximize storage life.
Harvest apples when the fruit are mature. There are several indicators of apple maturity. Mature apples are firm, crisp, juicy, well-colored, and good flavored. Fruit harvested too early are astringent, sour, starchy, and poorly flavored. Apples harvested too late are soft and mealy.
When harvesting apples, pick and handle the fruit carefully to prevent unnecessary damage. Sort through the apples prior to storage. Remove bruised or cut apples and use promptly. Also, remove apples which exhibit insect and disease problems.
Once harvested and sorted, store the apples immediately. The temperature and relative humidity during storage are critical for maximum storage life. Proper storage conditions for apples are a temperature near 32 degrees F and a relative humidity between 90 and 95 percent. Apple varieties, such as 'Jonathan' and 'Red Delicious,' may be stored up to 3 to 5 months under optimum storage conditions. The storage life of summer apples is only 1 to 3 weeks.
Small quantities of apples can be stored in the refrigerator in perforated plastic bags. Possible storage sites for large quantities of apples include a second refrigerator, cellar, unheated outbuilding, or garage. Place the apples in polyethylene bags or plastic-lined containers to maintain a high humidity. Apples will freeze when temperatures drop below 30 degrees F. During extremely cold weather, move the apples from unheated storage facilities if temperatures are likely to drop below 30 degrees F.
Pears should not be allowed to ripen on the tree. If the fruit are left on the tree to ripen, stone cells develop in the fruit giving the pear a gritty texture. Tree-ripened fruit will also be poorly flavored. Harvest pears when the color of the fruit changes from a deep green to yellow green. The fruit will still be firm, not soft, at harvest.
Pears should be ripened indoors at a temperature of 60 to 70 degrees F. The ripening process should take 7 to 10 days. To hasten ripening, place pears in a tightly sealed plastic bag. The fruit give off ethylene gas which accumulates in the bag and promotes ripening.
To keep the pears for a longer period of time, refrigerate the unripened pears at a temperature of 30 to 35 degrees F. Pears may be stored for approximately 1 to 3 months. Remove stored fruit about 1 week prior to use.
University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension in Lancaster County is your on-line yard and garden educational resource. The information on this Web site is valid for residents of southeastern Nebraska. It may or may not apply in your area. If you live outside southeastern Nebraska, visit your local Extension office