Whether they're tossed into a salad, baked into cakes, or enjoyed as a snack, pears are a well-loved, buttery fruit with an elegant shape--perfect for fancier desserts too. They're widely available and in season through fall and winter, long after summer's fruit has passed. With a few tips on buying, storing, and cooking them, you can make the most of pears and get your fruit-fix all year round.
Choose pears that are firm to the touch, fragrant and free of blemishes. Why firm? Pears are picked while still hard, since if left to ripen on the tree, they can become mushy and their core will start to break down. If you're cooking with them, you want even firmer ones that will hold their shape.
To get pears to ripen fast, place them in a paper bag at room temperature. Add another already-ripe fruit to concentrate their ripening gases and speed up the process. Avoid storing pears in a plastic bag or an airtight container. Once ripe, move them to the fridge and eat them as soon as possible.
While there are over 5,000 varieties of pears, we've put together a list to help you identify the most common kinds available in Canada.
Anjou Pears are firm-fleshed with yellowish-green skin, sometimes with a hint of red. They're delicious both cooked and raw, and are at their peak from fall to spring.
Bartlett Pears are the most "pear-shaped" of the bunch, with smooth, yellow-green skin. They're sweet and juicy and good for cooking and eating raw. They're in season fall through winter.
Bosc Pears can be identified by their golden yellow skin. They have a sweet-tart flavour and because of this and the fact that they hold their shape quite well through cooking, they're a favourite for baking or poaching. Find them in the fall through to spring.
Asian Pears look quite similar to apples and are generally large, round, and golden-skinned. There are around 100 varieties of Asian pears, grown mostly in Japan. They're often sold in a mesh lining for protection. They've got a shorter season from late summer to early fall, but they're a crisp, juicy treat not to be missed.
Now that you know a little more about pears, try them in both sweet and savoury dishes for a delicious cooler-weather treat.
Baked Brie with Caramelized Pears
Cranberry Pear Upside-Down Muffins
Puree of Roasted Potatoes and Pears
Maple Spice Poached Pears
Pumpkin, Apple and Pear Tarte Tatin
Pear and Pomegranate Salad
Radicchio and Pear Salad
Upside-Down Buttermilk Pear Cake
Roasted Pear and Greens with Pear Vinaigrette