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Sunday, January 27, 2013

Pears:

The pear is a member of the rose family of plants.  It is native to coastal and mildly temperate regions from western Europe and north Africa east right across Asia.  The shape of the pear in most species varies from globe-like to the classic pyriform  (pear-shape) of the European pear.   The pear and its close relative, the apple, cannot always  be distinguished by the form of the fruit, some pears look very much like some apples.  One major difference is that the flesh of the pear fruit contains stone cells (also called "grit").

The cultivation of pears in cool temperate climates can be traced to the remotest antiquity.  There is evidence of pears used as a food since prehistoric times.  The pear was cultivated by the Romans who ate the fruit raw or cooked, just like apples.  According to Pear Bureau Northwest about 3000 known varieties are grown worldwide.  In the U.S. only 10 heirloom varieties are widely recognized, Green Bartlett, Red Bartlett, Bosc, Green Anjou, Red Anjou, Comice, Forelle, Seckel, Concord, and Starkrimson. 

My earliest remembrance of pears is the Seckel pear tree in our neighbor's yard in Brooklyn.   I don't think anyone ate pears from the tree, but there were always pears on the ground that we would throw at one another.  Commercially grown pears are usually wrapped in tissue paper and then placed in a box for shipping.  I  remember in Grandpa's store how they would remove the tissue paper and fold it to make a little mat to display the pears on.  My mom told me that during the great Depression people would save the tissue papers to use as toilet paper.  

Pears are consumed fresh, canned, as juice, or dried.  Pears can be stored at room temperature until ripe.  They are ripe when the flesh around the stem gives to gentle pressure.  Green Bartlett pears turn from green to yellow as they  ripen.  Other pears you have to feel.  Once ripened pears should be stored in the refrigerator where they can be kept for 2 to 3 days.

Recent studies have shown that the skin of the pear contains at least 3 to 4 times as many phenolic phytonutrients as the flesh.   These phytonutrients include antioxidant, anti-inflammatory flavonoids and potentially anti-cancer phytonutrients like cinnamic acid.  The skin of the pear also contains about half of the pear's fiber.

So, eat some pears.  Rinse with cool water and pat dry. Eat with the skin on.

Eat up!  Enjoy!  I'll show you how.