What seasonal foods come to mind if I say “autumn”? Apples? Pumpkin? Cranberries? Butternut squash? How about pears?
Pears don’t always get as much attention as apples. I can speculate on the reasons:
- Apples are ready to eat from the grocery store, while pears almost always need to ripen, which brings out the flavor. Unripe pears don’t taste like much.
- Pears have a shorter shelf life. See #1. They can be hard one day, ripe the next, too ripe the next. You have to pay attention.
- Unlike apples, ripe pears can be messy to eat.
- Also unlike apples, pears seem to bruise more easily.
Despite all these issues, ripe pears are worth the effort. They have a delightful subtle sweet flavor, and when ripe can practically melt in the mouth. They don’t need so much chewing, a plus for people with dental issues. Sliced pears go nicely with cheese, or in yogurt. You can also add slices to a grilled cheese sandwich; the slices are softer than apple slices, making the sandwich easier to eat.
Nutritionally speaking, pears aren’t significant sources of anything in particular, although a large pear does have 7 grams of fiber. That’s pretty significant. Other than that, a pear contains small amounts of B vitamins and several minerals. Pears are not a notable source of vitamin A or folate.
Here are a few fun facts about pears:
- Pears ripen best after they’re picked.
- Because of their delicate nature, pears are picked by hand.
- Pears are related to roses.
- Pears have been consumed by humans for at least 3000 years, originating in S.E. Asia.
- China is the biggest producer of pears.
- In the U.S., Oregon and Washington are the top pear growing states.
The internet has plenty of recipe ideas for pears. Keep in mind, cooking with pears can be tricky, due to their delicate consistency. Pears tend to fall apart when baked in a pie or fruit crisp; best to combine them with apples. I prefer easy uses, such as adding sliced pears to a salad. The sweet flavor of pears complements dark greens, like kale or arugula.
But the best use is to just eat a nicely ripened fresh pear and savor the flavor.