The Q&A Archives: Gritty pears

Question: Our Bartlett pear tree produces beautiful fruit, but when we harvest the pears the flesh is gritty and sandy-textured. What's wrong with our pears? L. K. Meyersdale, PA

Answer: Bartlett pears tend to be grittier than other varieties, but the problem may also be due to harvesting the pears too early, says Richard Bell, pear breeder at the USDA Appalachian Fruit Research Station in Kearneysville, West Virginia. Gritty textureis caused by stone cells in the flesh and under the skin, Bell explains. Two pear varieties with fewer stone cells and a smoother, less gritty texture are Magness (which also has good fire blight resistance) and Comice. There also may be variations in grittiness from year to year in the same pear variety, but we're not sure what factors cause the differences, adds Bell. We do know the grit content and size of the grit particles decrease as pears reach harvest maturity on the tree, and that these traits don't change once the pear is harvested, notes Bell. So harvesting too early may result in grittier fruit. In your area, Bartlett pears should be harvested in mid-August. Bell suggests some signs to tell when the pears are ready: When the skin color changes from dark green to light green, lenticels change from white to brown, and you can pick the fruit off the tree cleanly with little effort or breaking of the branch, then harvest.

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