All You Need to Know About
Pacific Northwest Canned Pears
Where It All Begins
The Columbia River cuts through eastern Washington before turning west toward the Pacific Ocean to form the state's boundary with Oregon. In both Oregon and Washington, high valleys near the river's broad channel provide the ideal growing conditions for Bartlett pears. The Bartlett-the only pear variety that is commercially canned in the United States-thrives in the rich, loamy soil, hibernating through sharp, cold winters and flourishing during long, warm summer days.
Most likely, the pear growers in the region come from an established line of farmers, families that have nurtured their fruit trees for generations. Bartlett pear trees bear fruit for decades (some as long as 100 years), so Pacific Northwest pear growers harvest from trees planted by their fathers and grandfathers.
When asked about what customers should know about canned pears, pear growers speak proudly to the fact that their product is 100% pears in a choice of packing mediums.
Says Steve Carlson, pear grower and Field Superintendent for one of the PNCPS canners, "The thermal process cooks them and keeps them completely safe, tasty and nutritious."
Even better, canned pears are a very stable food, lasting for at least 2 years in the can without losing any nutrient value or product quality.
From Tree to CanA Bartlett pear's trip from tree to can is an annual ritual that starts with the tree bloom, pollination and bud. The leisurely maturation of the Bartlett comes to an abrupt halt in August, when harvest starts and the canneries open for the high volume production season that ends in November.
In the orchard, field supervisors test fruit based on an internal pressure that will allow the fruit to be harvested and stored in cold storage facility. At the cannery-the canning process has not changed for 50 years- the pears are ripened in specialized ripening rooms to synchronize with the cannery's capacity. In season, the canneries run 24-hours, 5 days per week. Ripe pears are dumped onto conveyer belts that transport the fruit through mechanical sizing and optical color sorting. Peeling and coring are done in a single step by one machine. All canned pears start as a half; the halves are then sorted for blemishes and flaws. Perfect halves proceed to canning; blemished halves are diverted to the slice line. The slices are then sorted, with perfect slices moving to the canning line, and blemished slices diverted to the diced pear line. The pear slurry is saved for pear concentrate, a neutral juice that is a component in most commercial juice products. Any non-useable product is collected for cattle feed.
When the canneries close at the end of the season, a skeleton staff spends the next months on maintenance and capital improvements, and the field superintendent negotiates with pear growers for the next crop year. Through experience, the growers and the canners keep their inventories at a balance with demand, so canned pear consumers are assured of the finest, top quality pears in every can they buy.