A member of the rose family, pears are related to apples and fall into two main categories: European and Asian. European pears are firm when picked, and then ripen to a buttery softness. Ripe Asian pears have a crisp and juicy texture similar to apples and are meant to be eaten as soon as they are picked. They are sometimes called apple pears.
The most popular European pear varieties are Anjou, Bartlett, Bosc, Comice, Forelle, and Seckel. Depending on the variety, a pear can be spicy sweet, sweet-tart, or a range of flavors in between.
Look for firm, fragrant, unblemished pears. Select ripe fruit if you will be using them within a couple of days. Select firmer, slightly underripe pears if you plan to use them later in the week. Slightly underripe pears also work well for cooking. When a pear yields to slight pressure at the neck, it’s ripe and ready to eat. If you wait to use it until the widest section at the middle yields to pressure, the fruit will be too ripe and not at its best texture.
Unripe: Store at room temperature until ripe (for up to a week).
Speed Ripening: Store in a paper bag with an apple or banana (check for ripeness every day).
Ripe: Store in the coldest part of the refrigerator away from aromatic foods like onions for 3-5 days.
Each pear’s texture and flavor characteristics determine its best use. Pears such as Boscs, Bartletts, and underripe Anjous have a denser texture that holds up well for cooking, including poaching, roasting, grilling, or baking. Extra sweet pears such as Comice, Forelle, and Seckel are ideal for desserts.
Canning or Preserving: Bartlett, Seckel
Cooking, Baking, Roasting, Poaching: Anjou (when slightly underripe), Bosc, Bartlett
Desserts: Comice, Forelle, Seckel
Jams & Preserves: Bartlett, Seckel
Salads: Anjou, Bartlett, Seckel
With Cheese: Anjou, Bartlett, Bosc, Comice, Forelle, Seckel
Snacking: Anjou, Bartlett, Bosc, Comice, Forelle, Seckel
Ripe pears are available almost year round. Bartlett pears are the first to appear on the market, beginning in August. They’re quickly followed by Anjou, Bosc, Comice, Seckel, and Forelle pears, which last through most of the winter and are a great fresh fruit choice during the months when other fresh fruit is in short supply.
Cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, cardamom, lemon zest as well as vanilla, lemon or almond extracts complement the natural flavor of pears.
Yields & Measurements
1 pound pears = 3 medium pears
1 pound pears = 3-1/2 cups, sliced
1 pound pears = 3 cups, chopped)
Pears are packed with fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals that promote good health—all that and they’re only about 100 calories each! The fiber found in pears is pectin, a soluble fiber that researchers say may help lower blood cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease and colon cancer. Pears are fat free, cholesterol free, and sodium free.
Natalie Menza, MS, RD
Manager of Health and Wellness
Wakefern Food Corporation