One of the great benefits of growing fruit in the home garden is the ability to harvest the fruit according to individual taste. One grower might consider a fruit to be ripe, whereas another believes it to be immature. The time to harvest is when it tastes good! As the fruits enlarge, change color, or simply begin to look ripe, try one--if it suits your taste, it's ready to be harvested. It's best, however, to be a little discriminating--don't pick too soon. Immature fruit spoils quickly and never develops full flavor. Pears should be picked at a green-ripe stage and "ripened" at a temperature of 72°F for approximately one week. A particularly effective way to ripen fruit is to place it in a brown paper bag on top of your counter at room temperature. The bag helps to seal in some of the naturally occurring ripening volatiles to promote faster ripening. In some instances this process can be enhanced by including a ripe banana in the bag.
Fruit should be harvested regularly throughout the harvest season. Most fruits will rot in the garden when overripe. In addition to causing the loss of the rotten fruit, the rots can spread to unripe fruit before it is harvested. Regular harvesting can be used to reduce the buildup of insects and disease organisms that cause fruit loss through molds and rots.
In addition to eating fruit fresh, you also can preserve it in one of several ways. Recipes and processing directions are available through your county extension office. Plans for constructing and maintaining fruit storage cellars and drying equipment, as well as methods for bird control in fruit plantings are also available from county extension offices.