There are only ten minutes in the life of a pear when it is perfect to eat.
—Ralph Waldo Emerson
There is something so sensuous about biting into a pear in its prime: first, the sweet juiciness; then the mild, but distinctive, sensation of texture. Enjoying the perfect pear requires patience; pears are one of the few fruits that don’t benefit from ripening on the tree. In fact, pears left unpicked tend to rot from the inside out. So pickers in prime pear-producing states are trained to identify when a fruit’s sugars are at their peak and time the harvest so that the fruits reach the market (or arrive by mail-order from companies) just as they achieve the perfect balance of sweetness and texture.
A single pear has a significant amount of soluble fiber (about 5 grams) and is a source of anthocyanidins, a potent antioxidant, and potassium.
There are a variety of pears to choose from in most grocery stores and each variety has its season.
Bartlett: Smooth, juicy flesh, excellent for canning, poaching or eating plain. The skin turns bright yellow when ripe. Peak season: August-January.
Red Bartlett: Similar to the regular Bartlett, but turns bright red when ripe. Adds color to salads, also great cooked. Peak season: August-January.
Anjou: Spicy taste with smooth, white flesh. Best enjoyed fresh. Peak season: October-June.
Bosc: Distinguished by its long, tapered neck, slim stem and golden brown skin. Has dense, aromatic flesh with a buttery texture. Great for poaching, roasting, broiling and grilling. Peak season: September-April.
Red Anjou: Spicy taste with smooth flesh. Eat fresh or use it in baking. Peak season: October-May.
Let pears sit at room temperature, near other ripening fruit or in a brown bag with a ripe banana (which stimulates ripening).
Most pears don’t significantly change in color when ripe, so go by touch: ripe pears are soft when gently pressed near the stem.
Store ripe pears in the coldest part of the refrigerator to prevent overripening.
The poet Homer considers pears to be “gifts of the gods” in The Odyssey.