There are multiple varieties of pear, but they can be divided into types by the colour of their skin. Some are a vibrant green color while others range from yellow to red or green or yellow skinned with a soft or bright red blush. The most popular varieties of green skinned pears you might find in a grocery stores are: the Bartlett (most common world-wide) with its green skin, bell shape and soft sweet flesh and the Bosc pear which has russet-coloured skin, fine texture and remains relatively crunchy even when ripe. Red pears are notable for their bright red skins.
Asian pears are becoming more readily available in Canadian grocers but are not commercially grown here. They have a crisp, crunchy texture similar to apples and come in a pale green/tan colour. They are great when eaten raw but the flesh bruises easily, so need to be handled with care.
How to Buy:
Pears are one of the few fruits that do not ripen on the tree. Their sugars develop after they are picked and so the fruit ripens over the course of weeks, including on shelves in the grocery store.
Look for pears that have smooth skin and are free of bruises. Don’t be afraid of scars or minor surface blemishes as they won’t affect the taste. The fruit should be firm and give a little with moderator pressure at the stem end.
How to Store:
Ripe pears store well in the refrigerator for 5 to 7 days. To ripen pears at home, store on the counter in a dry paper bag and check daily for ripeness then transfer to the fridge.
Ripe pears can be peeled, sliced and frozen in a single layer on a cookie sheet before being transferred to a resealable freezer bag. The frozen fruit will keep for 6 months.
How to Prepare:
Rinse pears under cool water just prior to use and enjoy as a delicious snack. Avoid overhandling as pears bruise easily. To prevent browning, coat the pears with lemon juice right after slicing.
In addition to enjoying pears fresh, consider using them in desserts such as pies, cakes, crisps, and crumbles or poach them in brandy for a decadent topping. As with most fruit, pears make delicious jam and preserves. Serve them for breakfast with yogurt and granola or over pancakes or waffles.
Toss pears into a salad or serve along savoury meats. They even work well in pasta!
Pears are a good source of fiber and a source of Vitamin C, potassium and folacin. One medium pear has about 100 calories.
How They Are Grown:
The majority of the pears we eat in Canada are imported and Canadian pear production makes up about 1% of all commercial fruit grown here. However, thanks to a Canadian innovation, the Cold Snap pear allows us to have access to fresh Canadian pears in the middle of winter. The Cold Snap variety matures later in the fall and is harvested later than traditional pear varieties. It also has a longer shelf-life which gives consumers the ability to buy locally grown fresh pears all winter long.
Two varieties of pears must be planted in an orchard to ensure cross-pollination and that the trees bear fruit. Pears are one of the few fruits that don’t mature well on trees and so they are picked by hand before they ripen. If left too long, the flesh will turn brown and soft.
Once they get to the packing house, pears are packed and put into cold storage for one to two months so they can continue to ripen before being shipped to the supermarket.
Canadian crop is available: August to late November, Cold Snap pears available November – February
Grown in: British Columbia, Ontario