Pears are the perfect fall treat. Not only are they delicious, they are packed with lots of goodies like vitamin C, potassium and fiber. But here's one little-known fact about pears: they don't ripen on the tree. Once the fruit is picked, it needs a little more time to develop its natural sugars and ripen. So how can you be sure that your pear is perfectly ripe? Just use your senses!

 

How to choose ripe pears

  • Feel: Hold the pear gently in your hand. Push on the pear right at the neck where the stem meets the fruit. If the fruit gives in just a little bit, it is ripe. If it's rock hard, it's not ready yet. If your thumb sinks into the fruit, your pear is overripe (and you've got to go wash your hands).
  • Look: Look at the skin of the pear. The fruit is ripe if its skin is matte and smooth. You may notice brown freckles on the skin—that's called "russeting" and is completely normal. But don't confuse those cute splotches with dark blemishes or bruises, which means your pear is likely overripe.
  • Smell: Go ahead, take a whiff of that pear. A ripe pear will smell sweet, fragrant and slightly tart. In other words, it should smell like a pear!

How to store

Stand your pears up and store them at room temperature until you're ready to eat them (or up to one week). You can also refrigerate pears to extend their life by about three more days. Don't wash before you store them, though—this speeds up the decaying process.

How to ripen

Find yourself with a bunch of rock hard underripe pears? Don't fret! You can leave them on the counter for a few days and they should ripen nicely on their own. Want to speed up the process? Pop them into a paper bag. The bag will trap the ethylene gas that's naturally given off when the pear ripens and speed things up.

How to use

Pears are the perfect addition to sweet treats like pear crisp and cookies. Or you can dice pears and bake them into bread.

For a more savory dish, dice your pears and add them to butternut squash soup. You can also layer pear slices onto your pizza before baking or toss pears into your favorite blue cheese salad.