Friday, December 3, 2010

Pears: Fussy but Yummy

If you know me, you know that my favorite produce season is Summer (read my blog entry in September, 2010, about Summer's fruit bounty).

But over the years, Fall has been making a pretty good effort at winning my heart - sneaking up on me with its variety of apples, bright red cranberries,dark leafy greens, squash and pumpkins, sweet potatoes, pomegranates and of course, sweet, juicy pears.

Ah yes, pears. 

I've always liked pears - but quite frankly, they are a fussy little fruit.  They taste wonderful but have kind of a diva attitude. Too ripe and they taste mushy and gritty.  Yuck.  Not ripe enough, and they taste like cardboard - no sweetness, no juiciness, not really anything (and they're hard to bite).  Not to mention you have to handle them delicately or they'll bruise.

But if you happen to experience a pear that is perfectly ripe, you forget all the hassle and relish the taste.  Over the years I've learned how to handle the "pear issues" and discovered how to arrive at that perfect Fall pear.  Which is lucky, because not only do I like them but my four-year-old son can inhale them two at a time.

Some handy tips for your perfect pear experience:
  • Shop at pear peak season: October through May
  • Pears actually ripen off the tree; they are harvested small and green (typically found at the supermarket)
  • If you don't need them right away, allow them to ripen on your counter for a few days
  • Pears are perfectly ripe when the stem end yields gently to pressure; don't wait until the whole pear is soft or it will be over-ripe with that yucky gritty texture
  • To speed up the ripening process, place pears in a paper bag with a banana or apple (these fruits give off ethylene gas which help the pears ripen faster).  Check daily and don't wait too long.
Nutritionally, pears are fiber stars - just 1/2 of a small pear has the same amount of fiber as one slice of whole grain bread.   Gobble up just two pears and you've already met half your daily fiber needs - now that's sweet.

And, I just found a new favorite pear recipe: Crunchy Pear Salad from Eating Well magazine.  I made it for Thanksgiving and received rave reviews.  Yummy pears, celery, pecans, a bit of cheese and honey/vinegar make for a sweet but tart combination.  Plus it's easy to make, refreshing to eat and healthy to boot.

Try it out this holiday season and let me know what you think.

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