Asian pears are cousins to the pears that are typically seen in grocery stores, but this fruit is similar to an apple and its many names reflect that characteristic. Other names that this fruit goes by are: Chinese pear, Japanese pear, Sand, Nashi, and apple pear.
Asian pears differ from the traditional European ones. These pears are usually round, firm to touch when ripe, and are ready to eat after harvest. Asian pears reach prime quality when they ripen on the tree, like an apple and peach. These pears will be crisp, juicy, and slightly sweet with some tartness, especially near the core.
While European pears have the bulbous bottoms and tapering tops, they are not ready to eat until they are slightly soft and must be picked during the green stage and ripen at room temperature. European pears will be soft and juicy, with a sweeter, mellower taste. European pears will be brown at the core and an unpleasant taste if they are tree-ripened.
There are several Asian pear varieties available. Japanese pears are more round in shape, while the Chinese pears are more oval or pyriform (pear-shaped).
In the United States, the Japanese type of Asian pear called 20th Century or Nijisseki is the most popular. It is easily identified with its round shape and smooth yellow skin. Other common varieties include the Japanese bronze-toned Hosui pear and the pear-shaped Ya Li, a pale-green Chinese variety.