Pears are harvested before fruit is fully ripe. Unripe fruit are less susceptible to damage during harvest, transport and storage. Additionally, fruit do not develop their characteristic flavor and texture when ripened on the tree.
Bartlett pears are hand harvested (based on flesh firmness and soluble solids content), washed, and hand-sorted for the fresh or processed markets (depending on size and defects). After harvest, pears can go straight to market or can be stored for multiple months in cold storage or controlled atmosphere storage. Fruit kept in storage require temperatures between -1°C to 0.5°C (depending on desired storage duration) to prevent ripening and pathogen growth.
When ready for market or processing, some fruit is ripened using an ethylene treatment (Mitcham and Mitchell 2002; Mitcham and Mitchell 2007). Those harvested in Sacramento County are typically treated with ethylene the first week after harvest to induce faster and more uniform ripening in the early marketing season. However, fruit harvested in the Mendocino and Lake Counties are generally not treated with ethylene. Ethylene is also not used with exported fruit, as it may result in poor quality after shipping. Instead, MAP (an ethylene inhibitor) is currently being used for fruit exported to greater distances than Canada or Mexico.