Pear pie, pear sauce . . . pears are nearly perfect all by themselves, ripened on a kitchen countertop. This time of year, a handful of varieties glow from fruit bins at farmers’ markets and stores. Pears grown in North America are harvested August through October. Lucky for us, with proper storage, these pear yields often last long into the winter season.
Green, yellow-green, red, freckled or speckled or brownish—whatever the color, the average pear contains twice as much fiber as a slice of whole-grain bread, plus vitamin C and antioxidant phytonutrients. (Just be sure to eat the skin, which contains most of the pear’s fiber and nutrients.)
What’s your favorite variety? Bartlett often wins out for its mildly floral sweetness and pretty, smooth skin. In fact, there are over three thousand known pear varieties around the world, and other pear varieties widely available in the US have much to offer. Here’s a mini guide to pairing your pear variety with its best use.
Anjou (green or red)
Rounder than other varieties, Anjou pears have a mild, sweet flavor and do not change color as they ripen.
Best ways to enjoy: Slice large, firm, juicy Anjous into salads, or poach them with cinnamon.
Bartlett (green or red)
Bartletts are the classic pear in shape and flavor, with more intense sweetness and pear flavor than other varieties.
Best ways to enjoy: Because their skin is smooth and thin compared to skin on other varieties, Bartletts make delicious, unfussy snacks. They’re also excellent cooked into sauces (like apple sauce) or chutneys.
Tall and slender, Bosc pears have green skin covered in a semi-opaque red-brownish outer layer. Boscs sweeten earlier in the ripening process than other pears.
Best ways to enjoy: Sturdy and dense, Bosc slices hold up well on fruit-and-cheese platters. Or bake them into cobblers, crumbles or pies.
Densely sweet and juicy, Comice pears have more delicate skin and are among the largest varieties.
Best ways to enjoy: Because Comice are among the juiciest varieties, they don’t stand up as well in cooking. Enjoy fresh and whole, or sliced into unsweetened yogurt.
LESS COMMON VARIETIES
A smaller pear variety, the Forelle loses nothing in taste to its larger counterparts. With crisp flesh and green skin with red “freckles,” Forelles are one of the prettiest varieties. Best way to enjoy: As a snack.
Green with the occasional reddish blush, this small variety is sometimes called “sugar pears” for their exceptional sweetness.
Best ways to enjoy: Because of their size and taste, Seckels are perfect for sack lunches.
Although these medium-sized pears have smooth, brilliant red skin, Starkrimsons’ flavor is milder than other varieties.
Best ways to enjoy: Brighten your fruit bowl with a few of these, or serve with appetizer plates for a beautiful pop of color.