Pears are one of my favorite fruits, and that’s saying a lot because I don’t have many favorite fruits. They have a delicate and delicious flavor and are highly digestible. This is why pear baby food is so popular.
China is the largest pear producer by far, producing over 12 million tons of pears. The next largest producer is Italy at 840,516 tons, not even close! 84% of U.S. pears are grown in Oregon and Washington.
Pears are harvested in the summer and fall. They are picked before they are fully ripe because they ripen best off the tree. This is a very unusual characteristic of the pear as most fruits ripen well if left on the tree. We’ve all bitten into an unripe pear and been frustrated. Patience is needed to let them ripen and if you do, you’ll be rewarded. The good news is that there are pear varieties that are in season throughout the year.
Pears ripen at room temperature. If you need a pear to ripen faster, place it next to a banana in a fruit bowl, or put it in a covered space. Refrigeration will slow ripening. Pears ripen from the inside out. The best way to check ripeness is to check the neck. If the neck yields to gentle thumb pressure it is ripe and juicy. Bartlett pears are the only variety I know of that change their color to yellow when ripe.
Pears brown when they are cut and exposed to oxygen. The browning can be slowed by brushing a 50/50 water and lemon juice mixture on the cut surface
Pears are a great source of fiber (25% of daily fiber needed) and Vitamin C. A medium-sized pear is 100 calories. They also contain potassium.
Pears are delicious to eat raw, use in salads or serve with cheese. They also bake, poach, sauté and grill very nicely. They make a great chutney and can be used in delicious baked desserts.
Here are some pears varieties you might encounter in the market–
- Anjou – Smooth, mellow, not too firm. Best used in pies or other baked goods. Good October through June.
- Red Anjou – Aromatic, juicy, fresh and sweet
- Bartlett – Very sweet and juicy, firm flesh. Can be used in anything cooked, or delicious raw. Good August through December.
- Red Bartlett – Juicy and sweet, best raw in salads or on its own. Good August through December.
- Bosc – Spicy and sweet, very dense. Delicious cooked with cinnamon and cloves, or roasted. Best August through May.
- Comice – Very sweet and juicy. Delicate flesh. Great in soups or raw with a blue cheese. Best August through March.
- Concorde – Crunchy and earthy with a hint of vanilla. Best in cooked dishes
- Forelle – Crisp, tangy but sweet, one of the smallest varieties. Best raw or with cheeses. Best October through February.
- Seckel – Bite-sized, crunchy and ultra-sweet. They take the longest to ripen. Best August through January.
- Starkrimson – Aromatic, moist and sweet. Have a very vivid skin color.
For some pear recipes, go to this site – www.epicurious.com.