Every year at Christmastime, my dad received a box of pears as a gift from a co-worker. As a child I appreciated this box of goodies, but I didn’t think about how this kind act encouraged healthy eating too. Eating a raw pear is one of my favorite treats, but I also enjoy eating baked, broiled, sautéed, roasted, and grilled pears too.
Pears are an excellent source of dietary fiber as a medium-sized pear has 24 percent of the recommended daily allowance. Pears are also a good source of potassium; a medium-sized pear has about 190 milligrams. They have no saturated fat, sodium, or cholesterol and are a good source of vitamin C. A medium pear has about 100 calories.
When shopping for pears, choose fruit that is firm to the touch and free from bruises and blemishes. Pears come in a variety of shapes, sizes and skin colors, including green, golden, yellow and red. Firmer varieties such as Bosc, Anjou, or Concorde are best for poaching, baking, and grilling. They have denser flesh, hold their shape better, and keep their flavor.
Pears not ideal for heating are Yellow Bartlett, Red Bartlett, Starkrimson, and Comice, as their flavor and texture are at best when ripe and fresh. When heated, the consistency may over soften and have reduced flavor.
Bartlett pears change from green to yellow as they ripen. Non-Bartlett pears such as Anjou, Bosc, Comice, Concorde, Seckel and Forelle, don’t drastically change color when ripening.
Pears ripen from the inside out, so check for ripeness by checking the neck. Gently press near the stem with your thumb. When it gives to gentle pressure it is ripe and ready to eat. When the pear is soft around the middle it is overripe. If pears are ripe, they can be used immediately or refrigerated to slow down further ripening.
If pears need to ripen leave them out at room temperature for seven to 10 days or put them in a paper bag to help them ripen faster.
It is recommended that you wash your pears under cold running water just before eating or preparing them. Washing your pears before storing them may promote bacterial growth and speed up spoilage. Like apples, when pears are cut up and exposed to the air, the natural browning process occurs. A mild solution of half water and half lemon juice can be brushed on cut pears to slow this process.
Pears are perfect for snacks, salad toppings, additions to ice cream or yogurt, and as a side dish. They can be used in baked goods and made into preserves, jams, and chutneys. Overripe pears are still tasty and can be used in smoothies, sauces, or as a thickening agent for soups or stews.
Have a healthy pear and enjoy National Pear Month!
Here’s to a healthier you.
For more information call Stephanie at the Purdue Extension Kosciusko County office at (574) 372-2340, or email at [email protected]