Pears are one of the most versatile fruits out there. They're great raw in cereals or yogurt. They're delicious cooked, poached with wine, or baked with a touch of brown sugar. The more uses you can get out of a healthy, naturally sweet food, the more apt you are to use it daily and avoid the ice cream and bon-bons.
Lucky for us, pears are in season all winter long, making it possible to enjoy their luscious sweetness for months.
The amount of fiber in other fruit pales in comparison to that in a pear. Its gritty fiber may help prevent cancerous growths in the colon. Enough of the fiber is soluble that it provides the same stomach-filling, cholesterol-lowering, sugar-blunting effect as other fruits. It's rich in heart-healthy potassium, too.
Pears provide a decent amount of copper and vitamin C. They also have boron, which is needed for proper functioning of calcium and magnesium. So pears may indirectly contribute to your bone health. Pears also contain the flavonoid quercetin as well as other flavonoids and carotenoids. Quercetin is a potent antioxidant that helps prevent cancer and artery damage that can lead to heart disease.
Selection and Storage
The juicy Bartletts are the most common variety, fresh or canned. The d'Anjos are firmer and not quite as sweet as Bartletts. There are all-purpose pears, like Boscs, which have elongated necks and unusual dull-russet coloring. Bosc pears are crunchier than others, and they hold their shape when cooked. The small, bite-sized Seckels are also a russet color, but they are sweeter than the others. Comices are the premier dessert pears: sweet and juicy. They are cultivated to have less fiber than other varieties. Asian pears look and crunch like apples but taste like pears.
Pears are picked before they're ripe. Left on the tree, they get mealy. Off the tree, the starch converts to sugar. In some varieties, you can't tell a ripe pear by its color; fragrance and touch are better indicators. Because a pear ripens from the inside out, once the outside seems perfect, the inside is on its way to rotting. So don't buy pears ripe unless you'll be eating them right away. Buy them firm but not rock hard. Ripen them at home in a ventilated paper bag, taking care not to pile them up or they'll bruise. Eat them when they just barely yield to pressure.
Preparation and Serving Tips
To get a pear's full nutritional value, be sure to eat the skin. Of course, wash it well first. If still firm, pear slices work well in salads. Ripe pears are great mixed with nonfat yogurt and a little cereal for a quick breakfast.
Of all the varieties, Bartletts, Bosc, and Comice are arguably the best for cooking, becoming even more sweet and creamy when heated. For best results, cook only firm pears. The traditional method is poaching; try using wine or juice as the cooking liquid. Or, cut a pear in half and top with a sprinkle of brown sugar; microwave until tender.
Pears, with their juicy sweetness, can satisfy your dessert cravings. With pears as part of your weight-loss diet, you won't even miss the vanilla ice cream.
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