In Season: Pears
A real challenge for pear enthusiasts is patience. Pears that are perfectly ripe are incredible but also extremely fragile, so growers, shippers, and retailers try to deliver greener, less ripe fruit to prevent bruising. This means some of the fruit you buy at the store may not be at its best eating quality on the same day you buy it. Pears can also go over the edge with ripeness in a way the affects flavor and especially texture, so it pays to plan ahead when buying them.
There are dozens of commercial varieties of pears but I like to lump them into two broad categories:
- Eat soft: Varieties like the Bartlett, Comice, French Butter, and even Anjou pears can all be eaten firm but are far better if you can wait until they get soft to the touch.
- Eat firm: Varieties like the Bosc, Seckel, and Asian (apple) pear are meant to be eaten firm.
Your local produce person can help you tell the difference, but here are a few selection tips:
- Many of the green varieties of pears will turn yellow as they ripen.
- Avoid pears with bruises or visible breaks in the skin.
- A pear will ripen from the skinny side first so the best way to tell if your "eat soft" varieties are ready is to gently press around the stem; if it has some give, it is ready to go.
Pears make great snacks but my favorite place to add them is in salads — pears make a great contrast to slightly bitter greens like arugula and watercress and are also excellent with nuts like almonds and pecans. Pears also make for a great addition to a wide range of cheeses as an appetizer (or dessert).
As we move further into the fall, one of the more dramatic changes in produce is the explosion of variety and availability in pears. There is nothing like the start of the domestic pear season to highlight the variety range and quality of pears. And while we say farewell to some of our favorite summer fruits, Mother Nature is ready to provide some replacements for the fall.
— James Parker, global associate perishables coordinator for Whole Foods Market