Pears are versatile fall and wintertime fruit. That is because of all the different types of pears and the unique flavors and textures each one offers. There is a pear variety to satisfy every palate. Now is the time to get to know this tasty fruit better.
There are many pear varieties, with intriguing differences in shape and color. Here are the most popular and commonly bought varieties:
Anjou pears have a rounded shape and smooth, thin yellow-green or red skin. Anjou pears are best used raw and cooked, such as poaching, baking, grilling, and roasting, because of their tangy flavor and firm texture.
When ripe, Bartlett pears are shaped like a bell and turn from green to yellow. A red variety is grown, too. A Bartlett’s juicy sweetness and buttery texture make it a delicious pear for eating fresh.
Bosc pears have bronze-toned skin with sloping, long necks. They are crunchy and firm. Bosc pears are best used in pies, tarts, chutneys, compotes, and poaching due to its nutty-sweet flavor and crisp texture.
Comice pears are prized as eating pears because of their buttery texture and flavor. They have yellow-green freckled skin with a blush of red and a squat, round shape with a short neck.
Nutrient-dense pears offer more nutrients for fewer calories, plus no sodium, fat, or cholesterol. A medium is about 100 calories. Pears are an excellent fiber source that helps manage blood sugar levels and satiety. According to the USDA, pears are a good source of vitamin C and also contain potassium, vitamin K, copper, magnesium, and B vitamins. That’s a lot of nutrition in one sweet and juicy package!
How to Buy
Pears are a unique fruit because they ripen best after being picked, not on the tree, with only a few varieties changing color to let you know when they are ready. Pears are harvested when they are mature but not yet ripe, and if left at room temperature, they slowly reach maturity as they ripen from the inside out.
So, how can you tell when a pear is ripened to juicy sweet perfection? While Bartlett’s skin color brightens as they ripen, most varieties of pears show little color change. The best way to tell the ripeness of non-Bartlett pears is to gently press on the neck of the pear with your thumb. If it gives a little to the pressure, it is ripe.
Here is what you need to do to ripen your pears:
- Leave unripe, firm pears at room temperature.
- Check the pears daily by gently putting pressure on the neck or stem end with your thumb. If it yields to pressure, it is ripe and ready to eat!
- Once the pear is ripe, you will want to slow the ripening process by placing it in the refrigerator. They’ll keep for 3 to 5 days.
Wash Before Eating
Make sure to thoroughly wash pears before eating or preparing. Washing the pear will help eliminate dirt and/or common bacteria that may be found on the fruit’s surface. Wash fruit even if you plan on peeling it.
Like most fruits, once pears are cut or peeled, they will brown. To keep the pears looking appetizing, dip them in a solution of 50% water and 50% lemon juice.
Pears are a very versatile fruit. Not only can they be served raw, but they can also be baked, poached, sauteed, roasted, and grilled. Anything you may do with an apple can be done with a pear! They can be used in your baking recipes or made into preserves, jams, and chutneys too!
The pears that are not optimal for cooking are Bartlett and Comice. The flavor and texture of these pears are at their peak when they are ripe and fresh. When cooked, they may over-soften, and their flavor may diminish.
Overripe pears are still delicious, just not ideal for serving whole or sliced. Use them in smoothies, sauces, or as a tasty thickening agent for soups, stocks, or stews. Cooking pears down into a creamy spread with warm spices like cinnamon is an excellent way to use ripe pears.
Freezing fresh pears that have not been processed is not recommended. The juice and fibers will separate in the thawing process. However, a cooked or processed pear (such as pear sauce) to which sugar has been added can be frozen. Pear pie fillings can also be pre-baked and frozen. Ensure the pears are in a tightly sealed container prior to freezing to help reduce freezer burn.
It is a fabulous time of year for pears! Pears come in various flavors and textures and can be enjoyed in many different ways. Incorporate the season’s harvest of pears into your meals.
Written by Vicki Hayman, MS, University of Wyoming Extension Nutrition and Food Safety Educator