Pear Love

“PEAR LOVE”:  I was actually afraid of pears….

….but that changed a few days ago. I have a history of buying pears and then never eating them.   I think I’ve just never had a good pear.  So they always seem to just sit there until they shrivel up and I guiltily throw them away.

Recently, I had a special friend from another country visiting me, and I wanted to impress him with something memorable to eat.  After a wonderful seared tuna over a minted edamame salad, we needed dessert, and it had to be quick.  I panicked.  All I had was this pear! It had been sitting there begging to be enjoyed.  I peeked into the fridge and saw goat cheese and mint.  The next thing you know, my date and I made pear heaven together.  (see Roasted Pear with Goat Cheese and Mint Brulée )

That pear dessert launched me into a pear crusade.  In preparation for this article, I wanted to be clever and photograph a love scene between two pears that were at a pear party yet alone together in their love reverie.  Mark, the photographer (not my date) and I did our photo shoot and afterwards I was left with 30 pears of all different shapes and sizes.

But that wasn’t good enough.  I had to go out and find more pears!  I went to a fancy organic store this time.  (Apparently September is the beginning of pear season according to the plethora of store signs yelling:  “We’ve got pears!”)  It was there that I discovered the Asian Pear and brought it home to add to my ripening collection.

So Mark and I threw another pear party.  The love match between the two new Boscs wasn’t as convincing this time.  The chemistry just wasn’t there.  But I was left with a happy dilemma.  Forty pears now ripening at room temperature.  Apparently, they taste better if ripened at home, and not on the tree.  The only thing for me to do was to start eating and cooking with them.  And so I did.

I started with the Bartlett Pear which actually ripened from green to yellow right in front of my eyes.  When I cut into it, the juices just spilled everywhere. I read it’s the quintessential pear, btw.  And boy is it.  Sweet, juicy, soft, with that slightly nubby pear texture.  Oh so pearish!

I feel the best way to eat a raw pear is to slice it in half and use a cannelle knife to scoop out the thick thread that connects the stem to the core.  Then use a mellon baller to scoop out the core in one tidy little ball.  Scoop out the fuzzy base.  Voilá. One luscious ripe pear to be eaten whole and nothing wasted.

By the end of the week all of the pears were gone.  I made compotes, salads, slaws, and pies.  And I am no longer afraid to go to the store and pick one up and to eat it raw.  I’ve fallen in love with the pear.  It’s true.

Here are some other pear varieties:

Bartlett. The quintessential pear.  Picked while still green so that it can ripen at home, the Bartlett turns a vivid yellow when fully ripened.  Sweet, succulent, and creamy smooth.  Great for tarts, compotes and purees.

Bartlett:  August – February

Red Bartlett:  August – January

QUICK RECIPE: Toss a package of fresh arugula with the juice of half a lemon and a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil.  Sprinkle with freshly grated pepper and flakey sea salt.  Divide onto four plates in delicate mounds.  Lay a fan of five thin slices of a Bartlett pear on each mound.  Lay a roll of sliced Prosciutto on the side.  Finish with shaved Parmegianno Reggiano.

Bosc Pear. If you would like to poach a pear, the tall and statuesque Bosc is perfect. It has a firmer texture and holds its shape well when cooked.  You might want to peel its cinnamon-colored skin as it can have a sandy texture.

September – April

Asian Pear. For something really different, try an Asian Pear.  It looks like a leopard-spotted apple and crunches like jicama.  It is golden blond in color with a rough texture. Unlike the Bartlett, it is sold at the stores already ripe and ready to eat.  It should be firm to the touch.  Choose one that is blemish free and with the best aroma.  It has a mild flavor.

July – October

QUICK RECIPE: Make a quick slaw by julienning an Asian Pear, a carrot, and tossing them with a mixture of lime juice, a few drops of toasted sesame oil, honey and chopped cilantro. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Starkrimson Pear. Tall and shapely, this pear almost glows with its crimson skin. Leave the skin on, slice or dice it, and sprinkle atop a mixed green salad.  The color will pop.  Consider creating a pear centerpiece for your holiday dinner table.

August – January

QUICK RECIPE: Toss mixed greens with yellow raisins, toasted pepitos, with an apple cider vinaigrette.  Top with goat cheese crumbles and a diced Starkrimson pear for a colorful fall salad.

Comice Pear. The Comice might be the sweetest of all pears.  You might call it the blushing pear.  It has a lime-green color  with a blushing red patch.  The Comice is also known as the Christmas Pear as it is featured in many gift baskets.  It is plump and stout with a short neck.

September – March

Anjou Pear.  The Anjou is egg-shaped and comes in red and green varieties.  The green variety stays green even when ripe.

Green Anjou:  September – July

Red Anjou:  September – May

When is it ripe?  Give a pear the ‘neck test’.  Test a pear for ripeness by pressing gently at the neck near the base of the stem.  It should give slightly.  The base should still be firm.  If the base yields, pick yourself another pear, as that one might taste like alcohol.  (The Asian Pear is an exception in that it is firm even when ripe.)  Pears will appear in your supermarkets in late September. Pears are typically picked while green and are actually tastier when ripened at home.  Ripen all pears at room temperature then store in the refrigerator.

Pear season:

Green Anjou: September – July

Red Anjou: September – May

Bartlett: August – February

Red Bartlett: August – January

Bosc: September – April

Starkrimson: August – January

Comice: September – March

Resources:  www.pearsusa.com; www.produceoasis.com

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