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General Description: The pear (Pyrus communis) is a firm juicy fruit in the Rosaceae family. The pear originated in the Caucasus and was spread by Aryan tribes as they migrated into Europe and northern India. During the Middle Ages the pear was especially popular in France and Italy. The introduction of espaliered trees helped to promote the growing of fine pears in the Paris region, and the fruit was one of the French King Louis XIV’s favorites.

Because the first American pears were raised from seed, which do not breed true to variety, American pears became even more diverse than their European ancestors. Today there are nearly 1,000 varieties of pear, divided into two types: granular hard winter pears suitable for poaching and buttery soft eating pears. As pears ripen, their starch reserves convert to natural sugars, increasing their juice and sweetness. Because pears do not ripen well on the tree, they are harvested in a fully mature but unripe condition.

Anjou pears are egg-shaped, relatively hardy, sweet, and juicy with mellow flavor and pale green or red skin. They do not change color as they ripen. Anjous are firm and good for both cooking and eating.

Three-fourths of the pears grown in the United States are Bartletts. They are one of the finest eating pears, with smooth texture, juicy flesh, and green skin that ripens to yellow. Much of the Bartlett harvest is canned.

Boscs are winter pears with long, tapering necks that come to a point, fat bottoms, russeted yellow-brown skin, and crisp, creamy white flesh that tastes sweet and spicy. These highly aromatic pears have dense flesh that makes them ideal for baking and cooking. Boscs do not change color as they ripen.

The Comice, short for “Doyenné du Comice,” is generally considered the best eating pear. It is a fat, blunt yellowish green French variety with a russet or red blush. Large and exquisite, this “Queen of Pears” has buttery, smooth, sweet flesh and a fruity fragrance. Comices have almost no color change when ripe.

The Forelle, or trout, pear originated in Saxony in the early 18th century. It is the size and shape of a small Bartlett, with beautiful bright yellow skin, green and red speckles, and sweet, juicy flesh.

The Packham pear, originally bred in Australia in 1897, is the Australian pear of choice. A late-season pear, it has bumpy green skin. When fully ripe, it is juicy and sweet. Packham pears are excellent eaten out of hand, but are also suitable for cooking. When cooking Packhams, select slightly underripe, firm pears.

Seckels, the smallest of all commercially grown pears, have a brownish skin with a red blush and firm, sweet, spicy flesh, which makes them excellent for cooking or canning. The texture of Seckels is somewhat grainy.

Season: Anjou and Bosc pears are available in the fall, winter, and spring, while Bartlett, Comice, Forelle, and Seckel are confined to just the fall and winter. Packhams are available in spring and summer months.

Purchase: Look for firm, well-colored pears.

Avoid: Pass up bruised or blemished pears.

Storage: Ripen pears in a cool place, setting them on their bottoms. Handle pears gently: The riper they are, the more easily they bruise. When you buy a pear, the skin will be bright, shiny, and taut. As the pear slowly ripens over a period of 4 to 5 days, the skin will become matte. To hasten the ripening process, place pears in a pierced paper bag with an apple or banana. When ripe, pears are fragrant, and the flesh at the stem yields to gentle pressure and may have a few brown spots. Once ripe, store in the refrigerator for 2 or 3 days.


  1. Wash gently.
  2. It’s not necessary to peel pears when serving them fresh. If cooking, peel with a vegetable peeler. Pear skins darken and toughen when heated.
  3. After peeling, place in a bowl of water with lemon juice to avoid browning.

Serving Suggestions: Serve sliced Bartlett or Comice pears with small chunks of Parmigiano-Reggiano or pecorino cheese. Poach peeled Bosc or Seckel pears in flavored simple syrup. Add diced pears to green salads. Serve Forelle or Anjou pears at room temperature with Brie, or serve ripe pears with Gorgonzola, Roquefort, Cabrales, or Stilton cheese.

Flavor Affinities: Allspice, bay leaf, blue cheeses, cardamom, chocolate, cinnamon, clove, duck, honey, pork, poultry, red wine, rosemary, thyme, vanilla, white wine.

from Quirk Books: