Jan 172012

pears There’s nothing quite like a perfectly ripe, sweet, delicious and nutritious pear. This versatile fruit can range from very soft, to creamy, juicy, firm or crisp. The pears’ colors range from brown to gold to red to green, and yellow. Nutritionally, pears pack in plentiful amounts of vitamins and antioxidants.

Pear season begins when Bartlett pears start arriving at farmers markets in early fall. They’re soon followed by Bosc, Comice, and Anjou, which are in season fall through winter. Right now you should find all of them peaking wherever you are, and they are definitely best when eaten in season.

What is the nutrition in pears?

At just 100 calories, pears are an excellent source of fiber, (5.5 grams), and are sodium, fat, and cholesterol free. They are high in Vitamins A and C, and are a good source of calcium, folate, magnesium, and potassium. That’s a lot of nutrition in one sweet and juicy package!

Types of Pears

  • Bartlett — The Bartlett is the most common pear. It is a sweet and juicy fruit with green skin that ripens to yellow, sometimes with a blush of red. It’s best for eating, and it’s the pear that’s used for canning. There are also red Bartletts that are identical in flavor.
  • Anjou — Both red and green varieties of this pear are sweet and juicy, and don’t change color when they ripen. They’re good for both cooking and eating. Anjou’s are recognizable for their egg-shaped appearance; having a large spherical lower potion that gradually tapers above the mid-point to a smaller, rounded top.
  • Comice — Comice pears are a favorite in holiday gift boxes and baskets, as they can grow quite large. Their flesh is silky soft, and can best be described as creamy in texture, abundantly full of juice, and very sweet. They are usually green in color with a red blush, but newer varieties can be all red.
  • Seckel — The Seckel is a small, russet-colored fruit with a sweet, spicy flavor. The Seckel’s firm flesh makes it excellent for both cooking and canning, but some people find it too crisp for out-of-hand eating, and they can be grainy.
  • Bosc — Bosc are an elegant variety, with distinctive characteristics that set them apart from other pears. Those who are familiar with Bosc pears appreciate their crunchy yet tender flesh and their sweet-spiced flavor. A common misconception is that Bosc pears need to be peeled or cooked before being eaten, and that’s simply not true. They are easily recognizable by their long curling stem and cinnamon brown color.
  • Asian — Similar to an apple in appearance, good quality Asian pears are selected by smell rather than variations in firmness. Unlike other pears that yield to gentle pressure when ripe, Asian pears are ripe even when they are extremely firm. Look for a fairly strong and sweet aroma.

How to choose pears:

Pear are picked when still hard and are allowed to become fully ripe off the tree, so you will need a bit of advance planning as it’s best to ripen them at home. Choose hard pears, without bruises or soft spots. Then leave the pears on a counter or in a bowl for several days to ripen, or put them in a brown paper bag. They’re sensitive to carbon dioxide so don’t store them in a plastic bag.
When the pear is ripe, it will give slightly at the stem end. Do not wait for the pear to feel soft all over, or it will be mushy. Pears can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Most pears discolor quickly after cutting, so use them promptly or toss with an acid source such as diluted lemon juice.

baked pearsHow to Cook with Pears

Pears can be part of a savory dish as a complement to meats, especially pork. They are great tossed in a dinner salad paired with walnuts and cheese, and are excellent as a side dish combined with green beans, mushrooms, or winter squash. Their naturally spicy flavor adorns many fruit and cheese plates.

Of course poached pears make a decadent dessert, poached in wine or spices, drizzled with a caramel or chocolate glaze, stuffed with cheese, or as a centerpiece in a fruit tart.

Check out this short video on how to poach pears, and this week’s recipe for baked pears with spices and ice cream. I had all of the ingredients on hand.


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