We love all fruits, but there is something magical about pears in our house. Perhaps because it was the first real food Emily ever tried, it has remained her favorite. Perhaps it is because they are juicy and sweet, with a soft, buttery yet somewhat grainy texture, that we like them so much. The season for pears runs from August through October, although pears are available most of the year because of excellent storage facilities and the global market.
Pears are members of the rose family and related to the apple and the quince. Pears generally have a large round bottom that tapers towards the top. Depending upon the variety, their paper-thin skins can either be yellow, green, brown, red or a combination of two or more of these colors.
Pears are one of the few fruits that do not ripen successfully on the tree. They are harvested by hand when they reach full maturity but before they are ripe. Pears will ripen after they harvested. Choose a pear that is firm, but not too hard, bright and fresh looking with no bruises or external damage. The color of good quality pears may not be uniform as some may feature russetting where there are brown-speckled patches on the skin; this is an acceptable characteristic and oftentimes reflects a more intense flavor. Avoid pears that are punctured or have dark soft spots. Pears other than Bartletts do not dramatically change color as they ripen. Pears should be left at room temperature to ripen. Test for ripeness by pressing gently near the stem, if it gives to gentle pressure it is sweet, juicy and ready to eat. Because pears ripen from the inside out, ripe fruit will give gently to gentle pressure near the stem. Waiting until pears are soft around the middle may indicate over ripeness. If you will not be consuming the pears immediately once they have ripened, you can place them in the refrigerator where they will remain fresh for a few days. Pears should also be stored away from other strong smelling foods, whether on the countertop on in the refrigerator, as they tend to absorb smells.
Tips for Preparing Pears:
Fresh pears are delicious eaten as is after gently washing the skin by running it under cool water and patting it dry. Since their skin provides some of their fiber, it is best to not peel the fruit but eat the entire pear. To cut the pear into pieces, you can use an apple corer, cutting from the fruit’s base to remove the core, and then cutting it into the desired sizes and shapes. Once cut, pears will oxidize quickly and turn a brownish color. You can help to prevent this by applying some lemon, lime or orange juice to the flesh. We love to eat pears like an apple, dice them and use as a topping for our salads or bake them in a pie or a crisp.
Most of the pears we notice in the grocer are Bartlett’s, D’Anjou or Bosc. When we owned our produce market we would tell people that the Bartlett pears were the softest and juiciest, followed by the D’Anjou and then the Bosc, which were the firmest. We like the Bartletts which are best for eating, the D’Anjous for cooking and the Bosc for salads.
Click here for a great Pear Crisp recipe.