It's time to take a closer look at the humble pear. From egg-shaped Green Anjou to rotund body Comice pears, let's pick the best varieties for eating, baking, and salads.
Green Anjou pears are characterised by their bell-shaped appearance and their short neck. Their skin colour is bright green and sometimes has a soft red blush.
Green Anjou are excellent for just about any use. They are delicious when sliced fresh and added to salads or enjoyed as a snack. Their dense flesh holds up well when baked, poached, roasted or grilled. When consumed raw, they have a refreshing lemon-lime flavour and a delicate sweetness.
Harvest for Green Anjou pears begins in the fall, and they are available in late September or early October. They are widely available throughout the summer. Many chefs choose the Anjou variety for their nearly year-round availability, as well as for their adaptability to a variety of culinary uses.
The Bosc pear, also known as the Kaiser pear, is native to France and Belgium. It’s named after Louis Bosc, a French horticulturist. Bosc pears have a warm cinnamon-brown colour with a slightly textured peel. Their curved stem and elongated neck, which widens to a rounded bottom, give them a unique silhouette.
Bosc pears have firm, juicy flesh, which makes them ideal for baking, broiling, or poaching. They retain their shape and texture better than other varieties. Bosc pears are more flavourful at an earlier ripening stage than other varieties. Consequently, the fruit is sweet and juicy even before the flesh is fully softened. They are also fantastic for fresh eating.
Bosc pears are widely available in most grocery stores. You can find them in the produce section from late September through April.
Comice pears are originally from France. They have a rotund body with a very short neck. They are often light green in colour, sometimes with a pinkish-red hue. Some newer strains have a predominantly red colour.
The sweet buttery flesh and juiciness of freshly sliced Comice pairs perfectly with cheese, especially soft ripening cheeses like Brie or Camembert.
Although all pears are associated with the winter holidays, Comice is particularly renowned as the 'Christmas pear'. They are often included in holiday gift baskets and boxes. Comice is widely available during the festive season, but you don't have to wait until the holidays to enjoy this delicious variety. Comice pears can be purchased from September through February.
The Bartlett pear, also known as the Williams pear, matures from green to yellow. The Bartlett has the classic pear shape: a round bell on the bottom half, then a distinct shoulder with a smaller neck. Bartletts are highly aromatic pears. Red Bartletts are another variety. Other than colour, the flavours of the two Bartlett pears are almost identical.
Bartlett pears have a buttery mouthfeel. Besides eating them fresh, you can enjoy their delicious flavour and smooth texture in a wide variety of dishes. Sliced Bartletts are a great addition to a green salad. Or, simply serve freshly sliced Bartlett wedges with cheese for an elegant snack.
Red and Yellow Bartletts are harvested from late August to early September and are usually available from December through February.
Seckel pears were first cultivated in Pennsylvania. They are tiny pears with a round body, small neck, short stems, and larger grain than most European varieties. Their skin is typically olive green but frequently displays a dark maroon blush that sometimes covers the entire fruit. Their flesh is sweet and crunchy.
Because of their petite size, Seckels are often overshadowed by larger varieties. However, their size makes them ideal for lunch boxes, as a plate garnish, and for preserving.
They're harvested in the fall, but they keep well and can be consumed throughout the winter. Sweet Seckel pears are in season from September through February.
Forelles are one of the smallest varieties of pears, a little larger than Seckels. Their bell-shaped body starts with a round base that gradually tapers to a short neck. Their stem tends to be long, straight, and narrow. The distinguishing feature is the red freckles that make this variety unique. Their flesh is juicy and crisp, slightly firmer than most other pears.
Due to their small size, Forelles don't suit most recipes, the exception being dishes that highlight the Forelle's distinctive characteristics, like in creative salads and other fresh preparations.
They are available from September through January.
The gracefully shaped Concorde is characterised by its long neck, almost pointed top, and long and curved stem. It has a round bottom, and its yellow-green skin frequently exhibits a golden russet. The Concorde is sweet and juicy with dense flesh.
The Concorde is a great all-purpose pear. You can eat it fresh, slice it into salads, or cook it in various ways, such as roasting, grilling, poaching or sautéing. Plus, they are slow to oxidise after being cut, so they are fantastic for taking centre stage on cheese boards.
Concorde pears are harvested in the fall, and the season lasts until December.
Starkrimson pears are named for their deep crimson-red colour. The Starkrimson is a mild, sweet pear with a delicate floral aroma.
Pear lovers select the Starkrimson for any fresh use that highlights its vivid colour. These pears add a vibrant touch to a plate when served with charcuterie. They are juicy and have a pleasant, smooth texture, making them ideal for snacking and salads.
The Starkrimson is a summer pear, which means it’s harvested in August. It’s in season from August through November.
Asian pears are native to East Asia, but today they are grown worldwide. They are large and juicy and contain a higher amount of water than most European varieties. Asian pears come in a wide range of sizes and shapes, depending on the variety, and generally fall into three categories.
The first two types are native to Japan, with one type having a round to oval shape with a russeted, gold-to-bronze colouring, while the second type is equally round to oval in shape with skin that ripens from green to yellow. The third type of Asian pear, believed to be native to China, has an oblong shape and green skin with patches of brown russet.
Regardless of the variety, Asian pears have textured skin covered with lenticels. Their white flesh is crisp, aqueous and slightly grainy. They are aromatic and have a sweet-tart taste with delicate floral notes.
Asian pears can be used raw or cooked. Their crunchy texture, aqueous properties, and sweet taste shine when eaten fresh. They can be sliced and added to salads, grated into coleslaw, diced for fruit salads, or juiced to flavour beverages, marinades and sauces. In addition to their raw use, Asian pears can be sliced and incorporated into stir-fries, slow-cooked to make a sweet sauce, and paired with roasted meats or used in baked goods such as muffins and tarts. They can also be sliced and dehydrated, coated in warm spices, or canned with lemon juice.
Asian pears can be found in some regions at the beginning of summer, but their peak season is in the early fall through winter. They are fully ripened on the tree and retain their firm texture once picked.
French butter pears
French butter pears are small to medium in size and have a teardrop shape, with a rounded base that ends in a short, straight neck. When ripe, the smooth, thin green skin turns golden green-brown and is covered in brown russeting. The flesh is firm, creamy, juicy, and pale yellow to cream in colour. French Butter pears have a distinct aroma of roses and are succulent, buttery and slightly lemony.
French Butter pears can be used fresh or cooked in various ways, such as baking, poaching and glazing. They pair well with both savoury and sweet flavours. They can be sliced thinly and paired with Roquefort cheese or juiced and made into marinades. They can be used in the preparation of tarts, pies, cakes, muffins, compotes and chutneys. French Butter pears are available in the fall through winter.
Desserts are a natural use for this delicate fruit, but pears can also be cooked in other succulent, sophisticated dishes. Give our line-up of pear recipes a go and learn new ways to cook pears.
Looking for ways to use overripe pears? We’ve got you covered with these 10 delicious recipes to try out.
Rather than just being faux-meat, Mamu is different. It's a mushroom-based meat alternative that's getting its launch in restaurants so that chefs can test its versatility. Flora Tsapovsky investigates.