A Bosc pear’s cinnamon-brown skin color can make it difficult knowing how to tell when a bosc pear is ripe.
The change in skin color is harder to pick out than the more obvious color change of a Bartlett pear,
that changes from green to yellow.
It might not seem that you can tell a ripe Bosc pear by its outer appearance, but you can. In fact, if you know what to look for, it can be a more reliable method than just “checking the neck” of the pear.
In this post, I will show you how to pick out a ripe Bosc pear using color, and for the more advanced, touch, as an indicator of ripeness.
I’ll also discuss why the popular advice of “just press down on the base of the neck” isn’t the best indicator of ripeness.
How to Tell When a Bosc Pear is Ripe
This is how you tell when a Bosc pear is ripe. Look at the skin of the pear. A bosc pear’s skin will turn from a lighter brown to a darker brown as it matures.
Patches of green skin will eventually turn to a light beige with increased russeting. The skin will also lose its sheen and not reflect light.
If you don’t understand what I mean by the sheen, take a lighter-brown Bosc pear and a darker-brown Bosc pear and hold them up to the light once you get them home.
Don’t do this in the grocery store, people will look at you like you’re a deranged pear connoisseur. You should be able to tell the differences in skin color even with the hospital-like lighting of most grocery stores.
The further the Bosc pear goes in its ripening cycle the darker the color it will get. The skin will also transform from a smooth to a rougher, more leathery feel.
Which leads me to the other indicator of ripeness of a Bosc pear, the tactile feel of its skin.
How to Tell a Bosc Pear is Ripe By Touch
A Bosc pear’s skin will become rougher and more leathery as it ripens. It will lose its smooth shininess and the further it gets in the ripening cycle, the rougher and more leathery it will get.
The more you practice something the better you get at it. After touching thousands of pears your hands will become attuned to what is ripe and what isn’t by the touch.
Perhaps the world’s saddest humblebrag, but it is true. If you work in the produce business for a decent amount of time your hands become intelligent as to what feels ripe and what is not.
This skill often reminds me of this bit by Patton Oswalt:
When you work in a produce department for a decent amount of time, you don’t even look at the pears you’re stacking. Your hands will already know if the pear is destined for the front of the display without your conscious brain even knowing it.
Why Pressing Down on the Neck of a Pear Is a Flawed Indicator of Ripeness
One of the most popular pieces of advice for picking a ripe pear is to press down on the neck of the pear by the stem to feel if it’s soft.
This is a less reliable method than the visual and tactile cues that I’ve already outlined.
Let’s look at the necks of two Bosc Pears.
Here’s pear 1.
Here’s pear 2.
Now, you can’t obviously feel the pears through the picture but the first pear is clearly more wrinkled towards the stem than the second pear.
When I pressed down on them both I quite honestly couldn’t tell the difference between the two. The first pear, with its wrinkled appearance near the stem, would seem to be the more mature pear at first glance, or first touch, as it were.
Let’s look at pear 1 and pear 2 side by side.
Focusing on the neck of a pear to determine ripeness leaves you with such a small area to work with and it isn’t really indicative of what’s going on with the rest of the pear.
Do the necks of pears get soft? Of course, they do. But generally by the time the softness becomes obvious the pear is past its prime.
The “check the neck” tip suffers from the same presumption as the “checking your steak for doneness” test using the space between your thumb and index finger as a guide.
It presumes everyone’s idea of varying levels of softness is the same. They’re not.
With a pear that has such a tough skin with an extremely tapered neck such as the Bosc, this tip seems like a practice in futility.
Look at and feel the skin using the tips I’ve outlined and you have all of the information you need to pick out a ripe Bosc Pear.
How Ripe is Too Ripe For a Bosc Pear?
At what point is a Bosc pear overripe? The example of the very ripe Bosc pear in this post might be considered overripe for some people.
A Bosc Pear will be overripe when its skin is a very dark brown and there is visible wrinkling of the skin, not to mention multiple bruises.
After cutting the very ripe pear in the picture open it was still somewhat firm but was definitely at the beginning stages where an overripe pear’s flesh starts becoming granular and somewhat mushy.
Most people will buy Bosc pears for their firm flesh that will hold up in salads or poaching and baking recipes.
That’s why I would consider the middle pear in the picture below to be the perfect Bosc pear ripeness that is the perfect level of sweetness with crisp texture.
When I cut into the middle pear in the picture above, it revealed a crisp texture and a nice sweetness that would make it suitable for many different cooking applications.
I actually made a pear tart with the three Bosc Pears above and the really ripe one did break down rather quickly when caramelizing in the pan with the other two.
Of course, I did have to wait a few days for the pear on the left to get riper to make my tart. Somehow I was able to gauge its ripeness without “checking the neck.” Crazy right?
I gotta work on a competing cool slogan. How about, “If it feels rough, that’s enough!”? I better quit before this takes a turn.