Known for their divine flavor and sumptuous shape, pears have been called “the queen of fruits.” Available fresh for several months of the year — and with a long storage life — pears are a convenient way to give your body more fiber, vitamins and minerals.
Pears are members of the rose family. Like apples, their cores contain seeds, but pears are denser and less tart than apples. More than 5,000 varieties of pears grow around the world. They have white, juicy, buttery flesh; a sweet flavor; a fine, slightly grainy texture; and thin skin. While most pears have a round bottom that tapers up to a thin top, some — such as the Asian pear — are spherical.
Pears are usually picked just before they ripen (most varieties are green at this point). As pears ripen, their color changes to various shades of yellow, green, red or brown. You can find fresh pears much of the year. In the United States, summer harvest includes Bartlett pears, which can be stored unripe in the refrigerator for one to three months. Early autumn brings Bosc and Comice, which will keep unripe in the fridge for two to four months. In late autumn, you can find Anjou and store them unripe in the fridge for six to seven months.
It’s best to ripen pears slowly at room temperature. When ripe, a pear yields to slight pressure. A perfectly ripe pear will be juicy but still have a firm texture. Mushy and mealy flesh means it’s past its peak. When purchasing, select firm (but not overly hard) pears that are free of blemishes.
A medium-size pear has 6 grams of dietary fiber, about 24 percent of the daily recommendation. This fiber, found in the skin and flesh, makes pears great for regulating digestion. Diets high in fiber are associated with reduced risk of some types of cancer. Pears are a good source of vitamin C, which helps with tissue growth and repair, and vitamin K, which is important for healthy blood coagulation and maintaining bone mass. The fruits are high in antioxidants, and research has indicated that antioxidant levels increase as pears fully ripen.
- Sliced or diced pears add a crispy, buttery sweetness to any salad. Try replacing the apples in Waldorf salad with pears for a delicious treat.
- Pears are a natural companion to cheese. Match Roquefort with Bosc, Stilton with red Anjou, and Brie with yellow Bartlett.
- Add grated or chopped pears to your morning bowl of oatmeal or cottage cheese and sprinkle with cinnamon and nutmeg.
- To make chutneys or compotes, simmer pears with hot chilies, ginger, vinegar, and raisins or other fruits.
- Cut pears into quarters, toss with balsamic vinaigrette and roast for about 10 minutes in a 400-degree oven to soften and caramelize.
- Peel and chop overripe pears, freeze, and use in your favorite smoothie.
- To ripen hard pears, store them at room temperature for up to five days. If you are not going to eat ripe pears immediately, store them in the refrigerator for up to two days.
- To speed the ripening process, place the pears in a brown paper bag at room temperature for one or two days; the trapped ethylene gas accelerates the process.
- After slicing, toss pears with a little lemon juice or place in a bowl of 1 tablespoon lemon juice mixed with a 1/2 cup water to prevent discoloration.
Pear Chicken Salad
Makes four servings
- 6 cups mixed salad greens
- 1 cup cooked, chicken breast, shredded
- 1 cored, sliced pear (Bosc)
- 1/2 cup chopped celery
- 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
- 1 cup chopped seedless grapes
- 1 tbs. Roquefort cheese crumbled
- 1/8 tsp. sea salt and black pepper
- 1/2 cup balsamic vinaigrette
- Divide the baby lettuce among the four salad plates.
- In a bowl, combine the pear slices, celery, walnut pieces, grapes, cheese, salt, pepper and vinaigrette, and toss gently to moisten.
- Divide pear salad (about 3/4 cup) on top of greens.
Calories 290; protein 21 g; total fat 14 g; saturated fat 2.5 g; carbohydrates 22 g; dietary fiber 4 g; cholesterol 50 mg; sodium 440 mg
Curried Pear and Potato Salad
Makes six servings
- 4 cups chopped, cooled and boiled Yukon gold potatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds)
- 1/2 cup golden raisins
- 2 tbs. chopped green onions (about four)
- 1 pear, cored, halved, and chopped
- 2 tbs. chopped pistachio nuts
- 6 leaves Bibb lettuce, for plating
- 1 tbs. curry powder
- 1/4 cup apple cider or pure unfiltered apple juice
- 1 cup plain yogurt
- 1/2 tsp. sea salt
- 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- For the salad, place the potatoes in a bowl with the raisins, scallions, pear and pistachios.
- For the dressing, mix the curry powder with the apple juice, and then stir in the yogurt. Fold dressing into potato mixture.
- Refrigerate for 30 minutes prior to serving.
- Place one Bibb lettuce cup on each plate. Place 1 cup of potato salad in each lettuce cup.
Per serving (1 cup):
Calories 200; protein 5 g; total fat 3 g; saturated fat 1g; carbohydrates 41 g; dietary fiber 4 g; cholesterol 5 mg; sodium 220 mg
Pear and Walnut Compote
Makes 15 servings
- 1 1/2 tsp. butter
- 6 ripe pears, peeled and chopped
- 1/2 cup unsweetened apple juice
- 1 tbs. agave nectar
- 1 tbs. lemon juice
- 1 tsp. lemon zest
- 1/2 tsp. ginger
- 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
- Melt butter in a saucepan and brown slightly. Watch carefully so that it doesn’t burn.
- Add the chopped pears, stir and cook for several minutes. Stir in the juice, agave nectar, lemon juice, zest and ginger. Cover and cook over low heat until pears are very soft.
- This should appear slightly chunky. Serve warm or cold.
Per serving (4 ounces):
Calories 90; protein 1 g; total fat 3 g; saturated fat 0.5 g; carbohydrates 16 g; dietary fiber 2 g; cholesterol 0 mg; sodium 5 mg
Makes eight servings
- 1/4 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 cups chopped yellow onions (about two large)
- 9 cups chopped, peeled parsnips (about 4 1/2 pounds)
- 4 cups chopped, peeled pears (about six medium)
- 3 cups diced, peeled potatoes (about 3/4 pound)
- 8 to 9 cups vegetable stock
- 1 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
- 2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
- 1 tsp. sea salt
- 1/2 tsp. white pepper
- Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepot over medium-high heat.
- Add the onions, parsnips, pears and potatoes. Cook until the onions have softened, about two minutes.
- Add the stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until parsnips and potatoes are soft, 15 to 20 minutes.
- While the soup is simmering, stir in the nutmeg and thyme to blend the flavors into the soup.
- Carefully ladle the soup into a blender and blend until smooth. Strain the soup through a fine mesh strainer or a colander lined with cheesecloth to remove any pulp.
- Return the strained soup to a pan and heat until hot.
- Season with salt and pepper.
Per serving (1 cup):
Calories 260; protein 5 g; total fat 1.5 g; saturated fat 0 g; carbohydrates 62 g; dietary fiber 13 g; cholesterol 0 mg; sodium 340 mg
Recipes presented by Conscious Cuisine.
This article has been updated. It originally appeared online on September 1, 2019.