Growers pick pears once they've matured and their sugar levels have reached the correct point, but they may still be very firm and green at that point. If pears were allowed to ripen fully on the tree they would soften and disintegrate. Don't worry about buying slightly firm pears at the market, whether for pear recipes or general snacking; they'll ripen in a few days at home at room temperature.
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Popular varieties include:
Anjou, which has yellow-green or light green skin and a juicy, less-grainy flesh.
Bartlett, a very popular pear that ripens from light green to bright yellow (there’s also a Red Bartlett variety) and is great eaten out of hand or cooked.
Bosc, with a thick, brown skin, a distinct neck, and crisper flesh, it’s great for cooking, baking, or eating fresh.
Comice, which has a yellow-green skin that ripens to pinkish-brown, and creamy-white, smooth, juicy flesh; it’s viewed as the premier pear variety.
It's particularly important to buy organic pears, since the chemically-grown version carries much higher levels of pesticides than many other types of produce, even after washing. On the Environmental Working Group's (EWG) "dirty dozen" list of the 12 most pesticide-contaminated fruits and vegetables, pears are one of these top offenders. Peeling nonorganic pears reduces, but doesn’t completely eliminate, the danger of consuming these chemicals. Fortunately, since the fruit is in season, organic—and maybe even local—pears are available and at their most affordable right now.
Never cooked with pears before? Make an easy, healthy dessert by washing and coring a pear, drizzling it with one tablespoon each of water and maple syrup, and sprinkling it with nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves. Bake or microwave until tender. For more pear-based treats, read on for some pear recipes from the Rodale Recipe Finder. They’re sure to convince you that pears are a fantastic addition to any breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
#1: Whole Grain French Toast with Nutmeg-Scented Fruit. A pear-and-apricot topping plus whole grain bread add up to a sweet and hearty, fiber-rich breakfast.
#2: Bitter Greens with Goat Cheese, Pine Nuts, and Pears. This delicious salad is elegant enough for entertaining, but easy enough to throw together on any old weeknight.
#3: Butternut Squash, Pear, and Sweet Potato Soup. A creamy blend of three seasonal ingredients, this warming soup is accented by a touch of crisp, lower-fat center-cut bacon.
#4: Chicken Balsamico with Pears. This protein-filled, savory chicken dish is ready in just 30 minutes, and makes a great cure for the same-old-chicken dinnertime blues.
#5: Fresh Pear Cake. This simple cake lets the star ingredient take center stage, and is a great alternative to some of the heavy, fatty deserts that become increasingly prevalent as the holidays draw nearer. Almond-lovers can try
pear-and-almond crisp, too.