Did you know that the US sells 10 varieties of luscious pears? Each has a unique color, size, texture, and shape. One trait they all share is being sweet and refreshing. Moreover, they’re wholesome and filling. When you’re hankering for a juicy snack, pears deliver!
While some pears lend themselves to cooking, heat torches their nutrients. So, in this post, I focus on types that taste fantastic when eaten raw. Soon, you’ll be skilled in finding high-quality pears when grocery shopping.
Before we delve into the different varieties, here are five health benefits of eating pears.
1. Spurring Your Energy
Sugary processed snacks give you a burst of energy that quickly fades. Conversely, the natural sugar in a fresh pear sustains your energy. That’s because pear fiber steadies your blood sugar rather than spiking it.
Plus, a raw pear has many vitalizing nutrients. B Vitamins convert the calories from your food into cellular fuel. Potassium helps your muscles contract and Vitamin C wards off fatigue. One fresh pear meets 7 percent of your daily need for Vitamin C.
The mineral copper helps you absorb iron, crucial for alertness. Copper also releases the energy in natural sugars.
2. Streamlining Your Digestion
Pears help you stay regular. In part, this is due to their substantial fiber or “roughage.” One medium pear gives you 6 grams of roughage.
For optimal health, if you’re a woman, your diet should provide 25 grams of roughage daily. If you’re a man reading this, your fiber goal is 38 grams per day. So, eating a pear is a sizeable leap toward your daily fiber quota.
Moreover, the water in this fruit ushers food waste through your body, helping to thwart constipation.
3. Quelling Your Hunger
Due to the whopping dose of fiber in pears, they help to curb overeating. Likewise, a sense of fullness comes from the high water content of pears. When you’re nourished and satisfied by wholesome foods, being overweight is less likely.
For a snack that goes the extra mile, complement a pear with protein, such as that in cheese or hemp seeds. This way, you can keep on trucking till your next meal.
4. Feeding Your Probiotics
Are you familiar with the term “probiotics”? If not, it refers to the protective bacteria living in your digestive tract. You have about 100 trillion of them, guarding your intestines! There are many strains of these essential microbes, laboring to keep you healthy. They’re also called “good flora.”
Among their life-sustaining tasks are:
- rousing your immune cells
- fighting infections
- producing certain vitamins
- digesting your food
- helping you absorb its nutrients
- preventing cancer and heart disease
- fending off depression
Note that probiotics live on fiber. So, if you don’t eat enough fibrous foods, your good flora die off. Dwindling colonies make you vulnerable to poor digestion, constipation, and infections.
Pears have a unique type of fiber called pectin. Studies show that pectin cuts cholesterol and the risk of heart disease. In addition, good flora thrive on pectin fiber!
5. Arming You Against Disease
Pears abound in various “antioxidants.” These unique compounds stabilize and strengthen injured cells. They also prevent damage to critical cell structures, such as their proteins, membranes, and DNA. Specifically, the antioxidants in pears help to:
- support healthy eyes
- tame high blood pressure and cholesterol
- fight cancers of the stomach, bladder, lungs, breast, and ovaries
- promote flexible arteries and heart tissue, aiding blood circulation
Note that antioxidants dwell in both pear flesh and skin. That’s one reason why it’s best to eat pears whole.
Top Pears for Snacking
This is the juiciest pear you can buy! Plus, it’s the one most widely sold. There are two cultivars in this category — the original Bartlett and Red Bartlett.
Both have the same shape, a narrow neck leading to a bell-like base. The term “neck” means the area just below the stem. Each variety is medium to large in size, shown here.
Bartletts tell you they’re ripe by changing color. Frequently, the regular Bartlett comes to markets with green skin, turning yellow when ripe. When a Red Bartlett ripens, it goes from light red to cherry or purplish-red. When ready to eat, both types are slightly waxy, with a sweet fragrance.
The Red Bartlett has more antioxidants than its cousin, stored in its rosy peel.
Bartlett season runs from August through February. Be sure to handle the fruits gently, as they’re quick to bruise.
If you prefer crunchy, firm fruit, you can buy regular Bartletts and eat them green. Still, their flavor will be somewhat tart. If you wait until they turn yellow-green, their flesh becomes tender and sweet.
A completely yellow Bartlett brims with nectar-like juice! To prevent it from dripping on your clothes, have a napkin handy. Also, keep a close watch on a ripening Bartlett. It can turn mushy fast.
This variety resembles an apple, as pictured here. Still, the Asian is a true pear, native to Korea, China, and Japan. When grown in the US, its color is typically tan, light yellow, or golden brown. Its skin is somewhat coarse and can be “russeted,” meaning sporting brown patches. Some Asian pears have speckling.
Unlike other types of pears, the Asian is harvested ripe. Its flesh is crunchy, juicy, fragrant, and mildly tangy.
Asian pears have a short season, from September through November. Although they’re firm, they bruise easily. This is why grocers often sell them cradled in foam netting, depicted here.
Asian pears continue ripening after harvest. To prolong their freshness, store them in your fridge. Then, when you’re ready to eat one, let it warm at room temperature. Doing so will maximize its melon-like taste.
Like the Bartlett, there are two types of Anjou pears — Green and Red. Both are egg-shaped, lacking a well-defined neck.
Typically, Green Anjous are lime-colored. Sometimes, they have a rosy blush on one side. Red Anjous vary in hue, ranging from deep maroon to bright crimson. The sun can also paint them with light brown or golden streaks. Check out these tempting Anjous!
Anjou flesh is dense, juicy, a bit grainy, and sweet. Its flavor hints of citrus. The Red Anjou has a nutritional edge over the Green. Its peel has more disease-fighting antioxidants.
Anjou season is long, spanning nine months! It starts in October and extends through July. During summer, you’ll mostly see Anjous in grocery stores. As they ripen, their color change is subtle, hardly noticeable. Later in this post, I explain how to check pears for ripeness.
At some supermarkets, you may see Red Anjous labeled “Red Pears.” Grocers may do the same for Red Bartletts. Still, since they differ in shape, you can easily tell a Red Bartlett from a Red Anjou. To review, the Bartlett is more slender, with a well-defined neck. Conversely, the Anjou is plump and egg-shaped.
The Concorde has an elegant shape. Its neck is long and slender, leading to a petite, rounded base. The skin comes in various shades of green — sage, lime, olive, and yellow-green. The peel can also have russeting, freckling, or a gorgeous blush. Here’s a close-up of a lovely Concorde.
Upon harvesting, Concorde pears are crisp, sweet, and juicy. You can eat them fresh from the market or let them ripen, becoming softer. Unlike other pears, a Concorde browns little when cut. When ripe, the flesh has notes of vanilla and a fragrant scent.
The Concorde is a newer cultivar, native to England. It’s a hybrid pear, bred from the Comice and Conference varieties. Since cross-breeding pears is hard to achieve, the Concorde is a horticultural triumph. Lucky for us!
You can buy Concorde pears from September through December, often sold at farmers’ markets.
Like the Bartlett, the Concorde shows when it’s ripe, acquiring a pink tone to the skin.
Can you guess the color of this pear? Its name is a clue. The Starkimson is a dazzling crimson. It has a soft floral scent, loads of juice, and a mild sweet-tart taste. You’ll love its creamy texture!
The pear also takes its name from Stark Brothers Nursery, who patented this variety. The fruit is medium to large in size and bulb-shaped. This photo of Starkrimson pears will take your breath away!
As a “summer pear,” the Starkrimson comes to farmers’ markets in August, staying through November. You can also buy it online.
For the sweetest flavor, delay eating a Starkrimson until it’s ripe. You can readily tell. The peel lightens, going from dark red to bright scarlet. Furthermore, its delightful scent intensifies.
This pear is highly popular for snacking, as its texture is smoother than other types. Ripe Comice pears smell fruity. Furthermore, their flesh is juicy, buttery, and super-sweet.
The Comice and Asian pear are relatives. One trait they share is a squat base, like some apple varieties. A Comice can also have russeting. When this occurs, the brown pattern often encircles the stem.
Comice size can vary from medium to jumbo. The largest fruits are hailed “King Comice.” There are two Comice cultivars. The Green variety can be lime-colored, pale yellow, bright green, or golden yellow. Ruddy blushing is also possible, pictured here.
The Red Comice has more antioxidants than the Green. The peel can be dark maroon, pinkish-red, or ruby. Sometimes, the skin is mottled or faintly striped. Both Comice varieties have thick, short stems.
Harvest time for the Comice is from September through February. Many pear varieties are popular gifts during the winter holidays. Still, the Comice is famed as the “Christmas Pear.”
Note that russeting doesn’t mar pear flesh or affect its flavor. Some fruits acquire brown patterns when exposed to certain environmental conditions.
For instance, russeting can arise when water collects on pear skin. Or, it can result from a late spring frost, while pear trees are blooming.
So, go ahead and buy russeted pears. You can trust they’ll be delicious!
Comice skin is quite fragile. Still, bruising is often superficial, not disturbing the juicy interior. Blemishes can be slow to appear, emerging as a pear ripens. Before tossing a bruised Comice, check the flesh, as it may be fine.
Unlike many fruits, pears are picked when they’re mature, but before they ripen. If commercial growers were to let pears ripen before harvesting, their texture would become gritty. Plus, by the time they got to markets, the pears would be overripe.
How to Choose Pears?
While shopping, before you compare different fruits, remember to handle them gently.
Select pears that feel heavy. Pass on those with soft spots, scars, or bruises. Skins should be smooth and tight, not wrinkled. Then, consider ripeness, according to when you’ll eat the fruit.
Will you have the pears within three days? In that case, pick ripe ones. For most varieties, you do this by checking the neck of the fruit. It’s the best spot for gauging ripeness. Pears ripen from the inside outward, starting at their core. Since the neck is closest to the core, it softens ahead of the other parts.
So, while holding a pear in your palm, press the neck gently with your thumb. If the neck yields slightly, the pear is ripe.
Next, barely press the pear’s middle. If it’s soft, the fruit is overripe, and the flesh will be mushy. Leave this pear behind.
If you’ll serve the pears later in the week, let’s say to guests, buy them unripe. Hence, choose pears with firm necks.
For two pear varieties, signs of ripeness vary from the norm. They are the Concorde and the Starkrimson.
When buying this variety, select pears with firm, smooth necks. Ripe Concorde pears show hints of yellow or pink in their skin. Unlike other pears, a soft neck on a Concorde means it’s overripe.
With this type, assess ripeness by skin color. Is it eye-popping red? If so, the fruit is ready to eat. Again, a neck that yields to gentle pressure means a Starkrimson is too ripe.
Ripening and Storing Pears
To mellow unripe pears, keep them at room temperature. Here’s a tip for speeding the process.
Place the pears in a bowl near a ripening banana. Or, punch several holes in a large paper bag. Next, place a few pears inside the bag, together with a ripe banana. To close the bag, fold the top down. The pears will absorb the ethylene gas emitted by the banana, prompting them to ripen.
Be sure to check the pears daily. Otherwise, you can lose them to spoilage.
When a pear reaches prime condition, store it in your fridge. Then, eat it within five days.
Once you cut into a pear, its flesh will brown from air contact. Still, you can prevent browning.
In a bowl, make a solution of half lemon juice and half water. Stir the mixture well. Then, cut a pear into slices and dip them in the acid solution. This method works for all pear varieties except for the Asian type.
Using Overripe Pears
If you’ve missed the eating window, don’t immediately trash your fruit! If the pears are soft but unspoiled, repurpose them. Below are some tasty suggestions.
- Add the pears to the smoothies.
- Mash the pears, using them to top pancakes.
- Make the salad dressing by blending pears with some vinegar, seasoning, and olive oil.
- Fold overripe pears into muffin or bread batter.
- Blend pears and pour them into molds for ice pops.
- Juice the most succulent pears, such as Bartletts.
What if got you carried away at the supermarket and bought too many pears? An economical option is freezing the surplus for munching later.
First, cut off any sections with scars or bruising. Then, slice up the remaining flesh and store in zippered bags in your freezer. When you want a refreshing snack, thaw a frozen portion.
1. When checking pears for ripeness, never poke, squeeze, or pinch them, as this renders bruising.
2. Since pears are fiber-rich and steeped in natural sugar, avoid eating more than one per day. Otherwise, you risk getting “the trots,” meaning diarrhea.
Pears are nutritional powerhouses! They supply steadfast energy, satisfy hunger, and promote good digestion. Plus, they feed your vital intestinal flora. The antioxidants in pears fight diseases of the eyes, heart, and arteries. They also help to prevent many types of cancer.
Since cooking destroys the precious nutrients in pears, I recommend eating them raw. The peel and flesh have different kinds of nourishing fiber. Also, many nutrients, such as antioxidants, reside in fruit skin. So, for the greatest health benefits, eat pears whole.
Pear varieties best for snacking are the Bartlett, Asian, Anjou, Concorde, Starkrimson, and Comice. Let’s revisit some of their outstanding qualities.
- Juiciest are the Bartlett and Comice.
- Highest in antioxidants are the Red Bartlett, Red Anjou, and Starkrimson. This advantage comes from the red pigment in their peels, having disease-fighting powers.
- The Concorde resists browning, and its sweet flavor has notes of vanilla.
- Asian pears are sold already ripe and taste like melon.
To help you find these pears in season, here’s the harvest schedule for each variety:
- Starkrimson – August through November
- Bartlett – August through February
- Asian – September through November
- Concorde – September through December
- Comice – September through February
- Anjou – October through July
Now you can treat yourself to pears year-round!