Pears: Sweet & Succulent Seasonal Treats
By Robbie Sigona
One of our favorite fall treats is the pear, a fruit which was introduced to the West Coast by Franciscan missionaries, early settlers of Oregon’s Willamette Valley and even those 49ers who came to our neck of the woods to search streams and hills for the legendary California gold.
California grows its fair share of pears, but it’s Oregon and Washington state that are renowned for their perfect pear producing prowess. A combination of the area’s hot, dry summers (believe it or not!), cold winters and rich, volcanic soil make for pears with outstanding quality and flavor.
The short California pear season has ended and, though some are still in storage, we’ve sought other sources to bring in the best-quality, seasonal pear selections. That is, after all, the foundation on which we’ve built our business over the years.
When the local pears are past their prime, they get mushy and deteriorate; also, California pears don’t store well so they don’t stand up to new harvests from elsewhere later in the season. In order to provide the best and live up to our quality standards, we’ve brought in pears from Oregon.
Meyer’s Pride Pears
Most of the pears we have now from Oregon come from the Meyer Family Orchards in Medford. The Meyer family – four generations strong – consistently produce some of the best quality pears for their Meyer’s Pride label I’ve brought into our stores – a fact you can validate by simply looking at our displays. The Meyer’s Pride pears have great size, color and flavor, and are picked at just the right time so all they need are a few days on your counter to ripen and they’ll be ready to eat. (Refrigerate after they’ve ripened.)
All pears ripen off the tree. While we do have a few that are ready to eat the day of purchase, most pears need a few days on the counter to soften and ripen to the point that they’re perfectly creamy, juicy and soft. Check out the profiles a few pears below for tips about each variety and for knowing when they’re ripe.
I love pears in salad. My uncle Carmelo makes a simple vinaigrette with olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt & pepper, shallot and lemon juice, then slips in sliced pears to let them marinate. He then drizzles the vinaigrette over greens and tops off the dish with the marinated pear slices. This provides a lot of complexity to the salad – the sweet, juicy pear mixed with the savory vinaigrette atop a bed of greens is just delicious. I like to add on a sprinkle of candied nuts or cashews to mine, too.
Pears are a super source of fiber. In fact, according to the Pear Bureau Northwest, , a medium-sized pear contains six grams of fiber, equal to about 24 percent of the recommended daily value (DV) for fiber!
It’s the skin of the pear that carries the majority of the fiber, as well as the flavor, texture and other nutrients, so eat them skin-on when eating out of hand. Pears are also fat free, sodium free and are a surprisingly good source of vitamin C; a medium pear boasts about 10 percent, of your daily need for vitamin C.
Be sure to check out some of our pear recipes, including one for a Blue Cheese & Walnut Spread for Pears. Pears & cheese go so well together that we’ve also put together a list of pear, wine & cheese pairings based on a handy guide from the Pear Bureau Northwest, check it out!
Pears from the Meyer Family Orchards:
Bosc: The crisp, honey-sweet and picturesque Bosc has a long, tapered neck, beautifully russeted, brown skin and a flesh that is excellent for poaching and baking.
Ripe Boscs should give only slightly when ripe as they’re a firm pear.
For a quick dessert, halve and bake (peeled or unpeeled) a Bosc in the oven until the sugars come out. Top it with a sweet sauce or serve it over vanilla bean gelato.
Red D’Anjou: This egg-shaped variety is mildly sweet and mildly juicy. If you like firm pears without a lot of juice for salads, the Red D’Anjou would be a go-to.
Give it the “Check the Neck” test for slight give when ripe.
Comice: This pear is a green pear with a red blush, and its sweet, succulent flesh simply melts in your mouth. When selecting a ripe Comice, feel for just a little give on the stem end. If the body of the pear is soft, the pear is too ripe and will be mushy. The skin of the Comice tends to be a bit gritty, so you may enjoy it more when peeled.
Bartlett: The most important thing to know about Bartletts is that they turn golden when ripe.
Bartletts are picked green, so their ensuing golden color is a ripe-and-ready tip.
A Bartlett eaten before its ripe will be firm and gritty, but a ripe Bartlett will be smooth and creamy like butter. Bartletts are good for canning, sauce and eating out of hand.
Some Other Pear Varieties in Store Now:
Starkrimson: This lesser known variety is one of the first pears to ripen each summer.
As it ripens, the color develops to a bright crimson red and it gives off a floral aroma.
This is a sweet, juicy pear with a smooth texture that’s nice for salads or cereal.
Concorde: This pear, like the Bosc, has a long, tapered neck, but has greenish-yellow skin. It has a dense flesh that has a mellow-sweet flavor that some say is like vanilla.
This pear is excellent for salads and for baking as it holds its shape when cooked.
They can be enjoyed when firm and crisp or softer, which makes for a more mellow flavor and juicy texture.