An example of white immature apple seeds

This is a picture of an apple cut in half showing white immature apple seeds.

A picture of an apple showing dark brown mature seeds

This is a picture of an apple cut in half showing dark brown seeds. An apple is mature when the seeds are dark brown.

6 Ways to Know That Your Apples and Pears Are Ready to Pick

Follow these simple tips to learn when your tree is ready to harvest.

One of the most popular questions we hear this time of year is, “how do I know when my apple and pear trees are ready to pick?”.

  1. Placement on the Tree: Since the apples on the outside of the tree ripen faster than the ones on the inside, look to those first.
  2. Color: The hanging fruit begins to change color. Even green apples like Granny Smith and most pears have a subtle color shift when ripening begins in earnest, but the untrained eye might not see it. But red apples will show a more obvious color shift from green toward red as they approach ripeness.
  3. Fruit starts to drop: This is usually a solid giveaway, but it doesn’t mean that every fruit on the tree is at exactly the same stage.
  4. Ease of picking: As fruit approaches maturity, a layer of tissue on the stem accumulates abscisic acid in preparation to drop the apple or pear. Gently lift a fruit from the vertical hanging position to something approaching horizontal. If the fruit is ready, the abscission layer will break cleanly where it joins the twig or spur it is attached to.
  5. Seed maturity: The seeds are hard and brown or black. This is the surest indicator of physiological ripeness. Seeds that are soft and white are not ready and the fruit isn’t ripe. If you were to pick the fruit before the seed is mature, the fruit will not continue to ripen.
  6. Taste: The fruit pleases your palate. If you like it, then it’s ready!

The best way to know if apples are ripe and ready for picking is to check the timing of the local apple season in your area. In the PNW our apple season starts in July and extends into mid-November. In the South Puget Sound area the ‘Transparent’ apple season, for instance, peaks in the last week of July, and the “Liberty” apple season peaks in September.

Pears should be picked under-ripe

European-type pears—like the familiar Bartlett and Comice—ripen best off the tree. This is not true for Asian pears, which ripen fine on the tree. If left to ripen on the tree, European pears generally start ripening from the inside out and can be grainy or mushy. These pears are best picked just shy of full ripe (but physiologically ripe) then chilled and “cured”. We like pick them a little “under-ripe” where the seed is still a little bit white, but is starting to change to brown.