Pears (Pyrus communis) are a pome fruit relative of the apple. One of the earliest written histories or records comes from Homer's reference to them as "Gifts from the Gods." The first pears arrived in the United States by European settlers in the 1700s. Pears rank second to the apple as the most popular US fruit. They can be eaten and used in a lot of the same ways as the apple. One distinct feature of the pear besides the shape is the soft texture. This soft texture is the result of the starch converting to sugar after being picked from a tree to ripen. (Wellness Encyclopedia of Food and Nutrition, 1992).
The very shape of a pear speaks of its luscious nature. When ripe and ready to eat, the pear has a honeyed flavor and beckoning perfume that bewitch your senses. There are more than 3000 known varieties in the world. US production comes from states in the Northwest, plus New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and California. Imports come from South America, Canada, New Zealand, and South Africa.
With the numerous varieties and extended growing seasons, pears of all sizes and colors are available year-round.
There are several varieties of pair including Anjou, Bartlett, Bose, Comice, Forelle, and Seckel. These fruits have a sweet, rich flavor and come in a variety of colors including green, golden yellow and red. Among these varieties there are only subtle differences in flavor and texture.
Pears come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors from tiny Seckels to long-necked Boscs to colorful Red Bartletts. Check out their availability and use below.
Green Anjou — Available October through June
Firm and green, even when ripe; this large, thin-skinned yellowish-green pear is best eaten fresh. When slightly under-ripe, it can be baked or poached, but once it ripens, its sweet, mellow flavor and abundant juice make it an excellent choice for salads and snacks.
Red Anjou — Available October through May
Much the same flavor, use and texture as the green Anjou. Red Anjous (generally dark, maroon red in color) show little to no change in color as they ripen, which is another characteristic shared with their Green Anjou counterparts. Red Anjous are recognizable for their near egg-shaped appearance.
Yellow Bartlett — Available August through December
One of the most common and popular pears, this large, bell-shaped all-purpose pear has a yellow skin sometimes blushed with pale red. It is very sweet, juicy, aromatic and perfect for salads, eating fresh, and excellent for canning or cooking. It holds its shape and flavor in baking and cooking.
Red Bartlett — Available August through December
Firm, bright red skin, very sweet and juicy when ripe. This variety is a bit smaller, with the same flavor, texture, and use as yellow Bartletts. They make an excellent choice as a color accent in a fresh-fruit dessert or salad.
Bosc — Available August through April
The Bosc has a firm, dense, yet tender flesh with brown skin that hides a deliciously, sweet and spicy flavor. Its dense flesh makes it ideal for baking and cooking. Color doesn't change as it ripens, excellent for baking. Its mild, not-too-sweet flavor is great for microwave recipes, salads, and snacks.
Comice — Available August through March
Is hard, green, and rounder than a Bartlett, but similar in flavor and texture. One of the largest, sweetest and juiciest varieties. Best used fresh in salads, served as an elegant dessert pear, or as an excellent accompaniment with cheese.
Forelle — Available September through February
Slightly larger than a Seckel, with freckled skin and a red blush. For what they lack in size, Forelle pears make up in sweet flavor and beautiful appearance. They're an excellent snack or lunch-box pear...sweet, juicy, and crisp.
Seckel — Available August through February
Tiny pears with ultra-sweet flavor, so sweet in fact they are called "sugar pears." Maroon and olive green in color, with no color change when ripened. They are an excellent choice for children's snacks, pickling, or as a garnish.