Nature is full of many works of edible art. Fruit is a subject often portrayed in many still life paintings. Although not as famous as the apple, pears have been around for 3,000 years. They are mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey in the 9th
century and in ancient Chinese writings. Vincent VanGogh's Still Life with Pears
is a lovely painting. The pears are scattered about without the formality of many still life artworks; the painting shows the distinct shape of the fruit and Van Gogh captures the light.
On your next trip to the grocery store or market, stop and enjoy the distinct beauty of the pear. Pears make a wonderful centerpiece on your table, but of course they are meant for enjoying! Pears are the perfect snack even when on the go; just wash and eat. They are high in fiber so they will help fill you up.
How to Tell When a Pear is Ripe
Pears ripen differently than most fruits. The pear ripens inside out so by the time the base of the pear feels ripe it is really over ripe. The best place to check a pear’s ripeness is at the top of the pear near the stem or neck and when ripe should give to gentle pressure. Ripen pears at room temperature. Most pears do not change color as they ripen; an exception is the Bartlett pear.
Don’t limit Pears to Snacks
In the fall and winter use seasonal salad ingredients such as spinach or kale for the salad green and add carrots, beets, cabbage, or mushrooms. For a sweet and juicy flavor, I include diced pears. I may top off the salad with a sprinkle of nuts or seeds and a light dash of sesame dressing. Chopped pears are also a great addition to oatmeal.
A sweet fresh pear on its own is a great ending to any meal, but if looking for a more indulgent treat there are many pear-featured recipes. A favorite at my house is included in Healthy Palate, the Almond, Pear and Cranberry Crumble. The crumble is only 189 calories; compare this to 411 whopping calories in a single slice of apple pie.
Types of Pears
There are 3,000 varieties of pears worldwide from Asia, Europe to North America. In the U.S. there are ten varieties of heirloom pears. It helps to know a little about these types of pears. Cooked pears are excellent but use the wrong kind and you will not be happy — the texture turns to mush.
Pears that can be cooked
Bosc pears are unique for their color, a warm cinnamon brown, and have a long elegant neck. Bosc pears will give less to pressure when ripe compared to other pears. They are ideal for poaching, broiling and baking because they are able to retain their shape and texture.
Green and Red Anjou pears are all-purpose and are excellent for snacking, cooking or chopping and adding to a salad or oatmeal.
Comcorde is less popular variety. It has a long neck like the bosc pear but is bright green in color. It is another all-purpose pear that can be eaten raw or cooked.
Pears that can not be cooked
There are two types of Barlett pears – red and green. TheGreen Bartlett will change colors as it ripens from a bright green to a pale yellow. The red or green Bartlett is more aromatic and flavorful than some other types.
Comice pears are the sweetest and juicest of all the varieties. Their flesh is silky and soft and the texture creamy. These pears have a fragile skin and may appear bruised on the outside, but there is no damage to the interior. Enjoy these sliced in half and serve as a light, delightful fruit dessert.
Starkimson pears have a brillant crimson red color and a thick stocky stem. They are very juicy when ripe and the flesh has a smooth texture.
Forcelle pears are mini pears. They are often symmetrical and have a bell-shaped body and short neck. They have red freckles making them unique.
Seckel pears are the smallest variety of pears and are sweet too. These tiny pears are chubby, with a round body, small neck and short stem. The skin is an olive green with a dark maroon blush.
The perfect pear is the right balance of acidity, sweetness, texture and flavor. I have tasted some spectacular pears and each fall brings the opportunity to enjoy this classic fruit again.