Pears are adapted to most of Louisiana. It is not unusual to find 40- and 50-year-old trees still producing fruit.
Traveling through the parish, I have seen pear trees loaded with fruit and the time to pick pears is approaching. Oriental hybrids are the main type grown in the state. This group includes Kieffer, Pineapple, Orient, Baldwin, Maxine, Ayers and Spalding. The reason these hybrids thrive in Louisiana is that they generally have good resistance to fire blight. This disease sometimes severely damages other pear varieties.
The popular European varieties-Bartlett, Bocs and D'Anjou-are not recommended for Louisiana because of high susceptibility to fire blight. Many Oriental hybrid pears such as Keiffer and Pineapple produce firm to hard fruit that usually have a high number of grit cells. These pears are often used in making preserves, jams, pickles, relishes and mincemeat. Maxine, Magness, Moonglow and Ayres are some of the better fresh-eating Oriental hybrid pears.
Pears differ from most fruits in that to obtain the best quality, the fruit should be harvested before it is fully ripe. Fruit left to ripen on the tree becomes coarse and gritty. Also, the heat at this time of year will spoil most of the pears if they are left to ripen on the tree.
Pears are ready to pick when the fruit changes from hard to firm, with a slight color change from green to yellow green in most varieties. The fruit should be about as firm as a softball. The lenticels (small dots or indentations in the skin) are white on immature fruit. The lenticels change to brown when the fruit is ready to pick. They are best pulled from the tree prior to full ripening and allowed to get ripe in the house.
Harvest the pears when you see a slight color change from green to yellow. Be sure not to bruise or puncture them with the stems of other pears when placing them in a container as that will show up as bad spot once they are fully ripe. You can place the pears on a counter for up to 3 weeks before they get ripe or wrap them in newspaper and place them in a box. Check them frequently for ripeness. The pears will be ready to eat when you feel softness at the top of the pears near the stem when you press gently with your thumb. Once the pears are ready, you can place them in the refrigerator until you are ready to consume them.