Perfect Local Pears
Local pears are a treat not to be missed! Though not as prevalent as apples, pears are from the same family and grow in a similar manner.
Pears can be tangy, sweet, or spicy. You can find local pears that are crisp, buttery, or somewhere in between. Local pears have different colors and textures.
Like apples, local pears vary in flavor and texture. Mostly they are sweeter rather than sour, but that sweetness depends on how ripe they are.
Also like apples, some pears are better raw and others better cooked. Pears don’t last as long as apples, but they are a fruit that can stay fresh for a few months if you store them properly.
A pear looks like a bell, with a wide bottom and a tapered top. They come with thin skins, and their flesh should be soft and juicy.
Your local pears need to be ripened when they come home. Pears need to be ripened in the cold for a few days for best quality.
Growing Local Pears
Pears, like apples and peaches, grow on trees. They are easier to grow than apples, though they suffer a lot of pest pressures here in Maryland. You need two pear trees to have fruit.
Local pears are considered a fall fruit, but really they are available starting in summer. You may see them in late summer, fall, as well as in the spring.
Pears are usually picked unripe. If they ripen on the tree, they may start rotting from the inside. Unripe local pears can be ripened in a few days at room temperature.
Buy your local pears firm and let them soften at home.
Types of Local Pears
The two major types of pears are European pears and Asian pears. Asian pears are rounder than European ones. European pears are soft and mealy, while Asian pears are white, crisp, sweet, and juicy.
Anjou pears come in yellow-green and red varieties. They are tangy and firm, and good for cooking. They are also delicious eaten fresh.
Bartletts are one of the most common pears available. They go from green to yellow when ripe, and also have a red variety. This is a great fresh eating pear. These are also the best summer pears for storing fresh.
Bosc pears are bronze toned, and are firm and crunchy. They are also great for cooking, as they hold their shape well.
Comice pears are buttery and one of the sweetest pears. They are great for fresh eating and are great with soft ripened cheeses. These are too delicate to cook with.
Asian pears look more like apples and have a similar texture. They ripen on the branch and can be eaten directly from the tree.
Preserving Local Pears
In general, winter pears, Bartletts, and Asian pears will last a few months in cold storage. Summer pears only last a few days in the fridge.
When you buy local pears, ask your farmer about what type they are, and how to store them. If you have soft summer pears that are already ripe, then you won’t be able to store them fresh for long.
Choose winter pears like Anjou, Bosc, or Comice for longer term fresh storage. Buy local pears mature but not ripe, and store at 30F and 90% humidity . If it is too cold, the fruit will be damaged. Too warm, and they will ripen.
Bartletts will keep for two to three months in these conditions, while winter pears can last three to five.
Pears need to spend time in cold storage to ripen properly. Put Bartletts in the fridge for a day or two, and winter pears in the fridge for two to six weeks before eating.
Check for ripeness by pushing on the neck of your local pear with your thumb. A pear that is softening at the neck is ready to eat.
Only freeze ripe pears. You can cut, core, and freeze them on a baking sheet, then place them in a container in your freezer. You can also cut up your ripe pears, cover them with sugar syrup, juice, or water, and freeze.
Local Pear Recipes
Enjoy your local pears fresh, or cooked in a sweet or savory recipe. Try different varieties in recipes to find out which you prefer. Mixing up apple varieties in applesauce gives a more complex flavor, and pears work the same way.
While fruits are often cooked into desserts, there are savory recipes out there that feature the pear. Try Honey Bourbon Pear Pork Chops (with local pork, of course!), or Savory Baked Pears as a side dish.
Other pear side dishes include Roasted Butternut Squash, Pears, Onions with Blue Cheese, and Pear Salad for fresh pears.
Try making Pear Soup as an unusual start to a meal.
Did you Know?
It is possible to make your own Buddha shaped pears. Anyone with a pear tree can buy a Buddha shaped mold and place it around growing pears.
Apparently Europeans used to smoke pear leaves before tobacco was introduced from the New World.
Though pears aren’t as common as apples at the farmers markets, they are worth buying and enjoying right now. Buy some local pears this week!