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Sunday, May 3, 2015

Pears Revisited

Pears Revisited:


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").

Using Pears:

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.


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 Story:

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 a good source of dietary fiber, anti-oxidants, minerals, and vitamins.  They are very low in calories.  They contain good quantities of vitamin C.  Pears are a moderate source of anti-oxidant flavonoids, phytonutrients such as beta-carotene, lutein, and zea-xanthin.   The compounds along with vitamins C and A help protect the body from harmful free radicals.  Pears are a good source of minerals such as copper, iron, potassium, manganese, and magnesium. as well as B-complex vitamins such as folates, riboflavin, and pyridoxine (vitamin B6). 

Health Benefits:

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.  Pears have been suggested in various traditional medicines in the treatment of colitis, chronic gallbladder disorders, arthritis, and gout. 

Selecting and Storing:

Green pears should be free of blemishes.  Ripe pears are going to show a few scars.  Avoid  bruised or too soft fruit, but don't be afraid to bring home pears that are still green.  Place unripe pears in a bowl or paper bag.  Leave them at room temperature where they will ripen within a few days to a week.  Pears that yield to gentle pressure on the stem end are ripe.  Once ripe pears should be consumed or refrigerated.

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

Eat up!  Enjoy!  I'll show you how.

Simple but Good:

Pear and Bacon Grilled Cheese:

2 TBS unsalted butter
2 TBS currant or fig jam
2 slices white sandwich bread
2 slices cheddar
2 slices cooked bacon
1/4 small pear, thinly sliced

Melt the butter in a small skillet over medium heat.  Spread the jam on 1 slice of the bread and add the cheese, bacon, and sliced pears, then top with the other piece of bread to form a sandwich.
Cook the sandwich covered until the bread is toasted and the cheese is melted (2-3 minutes per side).

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