Pears are nutritious and taste great, and they are low in calories. Pears are ideal for healthy eating.
There are thousands of pear varieties, each differing in size, shape, color, flavor, and shelf life.
Pear flesh can be more or less juicy, soft, and fragrant according to the variety. Some varieties are harvested in summer, others are gathered in fall or even in winter in warmer regions.
Favorite pear recipes
Ways to serve pears
- Pears can be eaten fresh, cooked, dried, or candied.
- Pears are most commonly eaten out of and as a breakfast food, dessert, or snack.
- Pears can be used to make compote, coulis, jelly, jam, juice, vinegar, sports, and liqueurs.
- Sliced pears can be added to fruit salads, sorbets, yogurt, souffls, pies, and charlottes.
- Pears can be dressed in sauce or with various garnishes.
- Pears can accompany cheeses such as Brie, Camembert, Cheddar, goat’s cheese, and Roquefort.
- Pears can be served as an appetizer with prosciutto or Parma ham.
- Pears can be poached, either whole or in halves, in light wine syrup, raspberry syrup, or sugar syrup.
- Pears can be baked with butter and sugar or poached, sliced, and arranged on top of a fruit tart.
Pear flavor partners
Pears blend well with apples, quinces, chocolate, and ginger. Pears are delicious with sweet onions and slightly bitter vegetables such as watercress, radicchio, dandelion and chicory.
How to choose pears
Choose pears that are firm and well-shaped, and free of blemishes. Don’t choose a pear that is bruised or too ripe. Pears that have been left on the tree too long will be gritty and granular.
How to prepare pears
Pears do not require peeling for eating out of hand, although some have a coarse or tannic skin that may be unpleasant.
The flesh of the pear oxidizes and turns brown when exposed to air. To prevent discoloration, eat or cook the pears as soon as it is cut or sprinkle lemon, lime, or orange or with alcohol.
How pears ripen
Most pears do not ripen well on the tree but gain sweetness after they are harvested and as their starch converts into sugar.
The best way to ripen pears in your kitchen is to wrap each pear in tissue or old newspaper and place it in a cardboard box or brown paper bag—not plastic. This increases the concentration of ripening ethylene gases that pears naturally emit.
- When a pear yellows and yields to the touch at the neck, it is ripe, juicy, and ready to eat.
- European pears are best when ripened off the tree. Pears left on the tree will not develop peak flavor or texture.
- That means that when a pear reaches its mature size—and mature size depends upon the pear’s variety—it should come off of the tree green and hard.
- Once off the tree, a pear should ripen slowly. One of the best places this can happen is in your own kitchen. Slow room temperature ripening allows a pear’s sugars to develop.
- European pears should be ripened off the tree in a cool, dark place sitting on their bottoms. A pear that is ripe will have matte skin and will yield slightly to the touch at the neck end. Pears that are a few days from ripe will have bright, shiny, and taut skins.
- A pear should ripen on its own, but if you want to hurry up the process, place it in a pierced paper bag with an apple or a banana.
How to store pears
- Pears can be stored at temperatures below 40ºF (5ºC) for several weeks and then brought out to ripen at room temperature.
- The ideal temperature for ripening pears is 60 to 70ºF (15-21ºC) but not warmer than 75ºF (25ºC).
- Winter pears such as ‘Comice’ and ‘Anjou’ actually require about six weeks of cold storage before ripening to the highest quality. Varieties like ‘Bosc’, ‘Seckel’, and ‘Winter Nelis’ will ripen stored in a cool place such as a basement or cellar.
- Summer pears, such as the ‘Bartlett’, do not require any cold storage to ripen. Just set them on the kitchen counter.
- Pears are rich in fiber and contain potassium and copper. The nutrients in dried pears are much more concentrated; they are a good source of copper and iron.
- Unripe pears are difficult to digest and have a laxative effect. Ripe pears are said to be diuretic.
- A pear contains only 98 calories.
European and Asian pears
There are more than 5,000 varieties of pears.
There are several species of pears, but generally, pears are divided into two groups or classes: those that originated in Asia and those that originated in Europe. The difference: European pear trees generally require more days of winter chill than Asian pears in order to be productive, and Asian pears will often ripen right on the tree, unlike European pears.
European pear varieties
- Bosc. Bosc has a thin neck and russeted brown-to-yellow skin with a sweet and spicy taste. The skin of this winter favorite is thicker and rougher than many other pears, but its flesh is creamy white, and crisp. If you don’t mind the rough skin, the Bosc is a good choice for eating out of hand, otherwise, use this pear for baking and cooking.
- Comice. The Comice pear—whose full name is “Doyenné du Comice,” which translates as “top of the show”—is a fat, blunt pear with a short neck that is greenish-yellow colored with a deep red blush. This prize winner is considered by many to be the best-eating pear of all. It has a yellowish-white flesh and a buttery smooth texture. Its taste is sweet and fruity. The Comice is a great choice for fresh pear desserts, and it’s also the pear you are most likely to find in one of those holiday mail-order gift boxes.
- Taylor’s Gold. This is a large, round pear with a golden to bronze skin akin to the Bosc. It has a buttery texture, and its juicy sweet flavor will immediately remind you of the Comice. In fact, some believe Taylor’s Gold is a cross between a Comice and a Bosc, but in all likelihood, Taylor’s Gold is a natural mutation. Whatever its lineage Taylor’s Gold pear is an excellent choice for either baking or munching.
- Bartlett. Pear season begins with the bell-shaped Bartlett. The Barlett is perfect for eating out of hand and cooking. This pear has clear yellow or dark red skin and is very juicy, smooth, and sweetly flavorful. The Bartlett is summer and early fall pear.
- d’Anjou. The main winter pear is d’Anjou or Anjou. Anjou was developed in Belgium. It’s oval and short-necked with yellow-green skin and has spicy flesh that can be gritty towards the center. Still, d’Anjou is juicy and great eaten out of hand or cooked.
- Seckles. Seckles is a tiny pear so sweet that it is sometimes called “sugar pear”. Seckles is chubby and round with a small neck. Its skin is usually green but can turn to dark maroon. Seckles is ‘the’ pear for cooking. It has a sweet yet spicy flavor and a thick skin that holds up to poaching or baking. Tiny Seckles is a perfect pear for preserving as well.
Asian pear varieties
There are more than 100 varieties of Asian pears ranging in size from very large to very small. These brown to yellow-green pears which are generally round in shape originated in Japan and China and are sometimes called Chinese pears after their heritage or apple pears after their shape and crunch. Asian pear trees bloom later than European pears and, for that reason, generally come to harvest later as well.
Asian pears are great in a mixed fruit salad or you can slice them raw onto a green salad.
- Pears are members of the rose family; the pear is related to the apple, the almond, and the apricot.
- Pears grow well in most temperate zones.
- Pears are native to the northern regions of central Asia.
- Pears have been under cultivation for more than 3,000 years.
- The botanical name of the pear is Pyrus communis.
Also of interest:
Garden Planning Books at Amazon:
- Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner
- Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide Vegetable Encyclopedia
- Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide
- Tomato Grower’s Answer Book
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