The Humble Pears

Juicy and sweet, with a soft, buttery yet somewhat grainy texture, the white to cream-colored flesh of pears was once referred to as the “gift of the gods” by Homer in his epic, The Odyssey. The humble pear – more often used to describe a female body shape than talked about in the food and nutrition industry – is actually quite good for you.

Although the season for pears runs from August through October, there is a variety of pear available year-round because of the seasonal variations among the different varieties.

Humble Beginnings

Early colonists to America brought pears with them from their respective home land, and while the first pear tree was planted in 1620, much of their pear supply was still imported from France. Like many other fruit trees, pears were introduced into California and Mexico by missionaries who planted them in their mission gardens.

Choosing Pears

Choose pears that have unbroken skin. Pears should firm or yield slightly to the touch. Wash pears carefully in cool water before using. Use pears in stuffing for pork and poultry, or in fruit salad. Use sliced pears to garnish an entree. Softer pears are good for snacking while a firmer pear can be used in baking and cooking. An overripe pear can be used as the base for a blended drink. A slightly underripe pear is perfect for poaching or baking.

To help sliced pears retain their color, dip them into a mixture of one tablespoon lemon juice and one cup water.

Pears and Weightloss

Pack your fruit bowl with pears if you want to lose weight, reports a study out of the University of Rio de Janeiro. In the study, which was published in the journal of Nutrition, women who ate three pears a day consumed fewer total daily calories and lost more weight than those who did not. Pears are rich in fiber (one pear packs 15 percent of your daily recommended amount), and thus, pears should help you feel full and keep you from over-eating.

Suggestion for adding pears to your diet: Eat a pear before a meal to help curb hunger. Ditch the peeler, though; most of the fruit’s beneficial fiber is in the skin.

Research conducted at the University of Innsbruck in Austria suggests that as fruits fully ripen, almost to the point of spoilage, their antioxidant levels actually increase.

Pear Nutritional Facts:

In total, pears contain over 80 nutrients! However, it is important to know that when you purchase pears in the supermarket or farmer’s market, the odds are they are not fully ripened. Leave them at room temperature to ripen for a few days. You can also store firm pears in a brown paper bag to speed up the ripening process. A properly ripened pear will have some brown-speckled patches on its skin, reflecting a more intense flavor. If a pear has dark soft spots or is punctured, avoid it or toss it.

Ripening Palatable Pears

Ripen pears quickly by placing them in a brown paper bag along with a ripe apple. Place in a cool, shady spot and make certain a few holes are punched into the bag. The ripe apple will give off ethylene gas which will stimulate the other fruit to ripen. This ripe apple hint will also have the same effect on peaches and tomatoes.

Ripe pears can be stored in the refrigerator for up to five days. Storing pears in sealed plastic bags or restricted spaces where they are in too close together should be avoided. Pears should also be stored away from other strong smelling foods, whether on the countertop on in the refrigerator, as they tend to absorb smells.

Palatable Pears Are:

  • Low in fat.
  • Saturated fat-free.
  • Sodium free.
  • Cholesterol free.
  • A good source of fiber.
  • A good source of vitamin C (11.1 of DV).

Pears are also a pretty good source of copper, and vitamin K. Vitamin C stimulates white cells to fight infection, directly kills many bacteria and viruses, and regenerates Vitamin E (an antioxidant that protects fat-soluble areas of the body).

Serving Suggestions

Serve sliced pears with cheese for an elegant dessert, or add slices to sandwiches or salads for a sweet, crisp kick. For cooking, it is best to choose pears that are a bit firm.

Combine pears with mustard greens, watercress, leeks and walnuts for a delicious salad or serve pears with goat or bleu cheese for a delightful dessert. Core pears, and poach in apple juice or wine.

Low Calorie Sweet Treat: Cut a fiber-rich pear in half and roast it in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes; drizzle on your favorite dessert wine or dark chocolate syrup and top it with some chopped toasted hazelnuts.

Most of us know how good apples and peanut butter are — well, try pears and peanut butter! Pears make a delicious alternative.

Are Pears Non-Allergenic?

There are thousands of varieties of pears with each differing slightly in appearance. The Bosc, Bartlett, Anjou and Comice pears are the most commonly available in the United States. Conference, Passe Crassane and Packham, popular in other countries, are becoming more widely available.

Although not well documented in scientific research, pears are often recommended by healthcare practitioners as a hypoallergenic fruit that is less likely to produce an adverse response than other fruits. Particularly in the introduction of first fruits to infants, pear is often recommended as a safe way to start. This applies to all the aforementioned varieties.

Pesticide Note

According to the Environmental Working Group’s 2009 report “Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides,” pears are among the 12 foods on which pesticide residues have been most frequently found. Therefore, to avoid pesticide-associated health risks, purchase organically grown pears.

In Summary


  • Are low in fat.
  • Are sodium and cholesterol free.
  • A good source of fiber and vitamin C.

Red Pears

  • Excellent source of fiber.
  • A good source of vitamin C.
  • Only 100 calories per serving (1 medium pear).
  • Zero sodium, zero fat, zero cholesterol.

Red Pear

Pears with Black Cherry Sauce

This is an exquisitely elegant dessert, that is very simple to make and quite pleasing to the eye and palate.

Place the pears in a pot with the stem-end upward. Add the cherry juice to the bottom of the pot. Cover and steam the pears in the juice until almost soft, about 20 minutes. Remove the pears from the juice.

Dilute the arrowroot in the cold water. Add to the juice, reheat, and stir until thick and clear. Ladle the sauce over the pears. Garnish with whole mint leaves.

Variation: Serve the pear halves fanned over a slice of angel food cake that has been covered with some black cherry sauce or fruit preserves. Then top with a dollop of whipped cream. Serving size, 1 pear each.

Nutrition information per pear: 109 calories; 0.5 grams total fat; 0.1 grams saturated fat; 0 milligrams cholesterol

Poached Pears

The key to this simple, elegant dessert is cooking the pears until they have softened but are still firm.

  • 1 cup sweet white wine (such as Rhine)
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup apple juice concentrate
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 pears, peeled and cored

Heat the wine, water, apple juice concentrate, and vanilla to near boiling. Lower the flame before adding the pears. Cover and simmer for 5 to 7 minutes in the hot liquid or until the pears are soft. Take care not to overcook the pears, or they well turn mushy and fall apart. Cool and serve. Recipe makes 2 pears (4 servings).

Nutrition information per serving:
112 calories; 0.4 grams total fat; 0.1 grams saturated fat; 0 milligrams cholesterol

Open Faced Pear Sandwich

Pan fry pear wedges in butter until golden brown, then deglaze with honey and balsamic vinegar until tender and carmalized. Top toasted sourdough with pears and crumbled aged cheddar. Sprinkle with baby herbs.

Simple Pear Dessert

Make a simple dessert by simmering halved pears in water with fresh lemon juice, white wine, a vanilla bean, a little sugar and a dash of nutmeg and cinnamon. Top with frozen yogurt, non-fat ice cream or non fat or light Cool Whip.

Honey Poached Pears

Peel. halve and core 2 large ripe, firm pears. Place in saucepan with 2 cups apple juice, 2 cups water, 3 tablespoons honey and 2 cinnamon sticks. Bring to a simmer over medium high heat. Cover, reduce heat and cook until tender, about 15 minutes. Whisk 1/2 cup plain yogurt and 1 tablespoon cooking liquid. Serve pears with yogurt and chopped walnuts.

P.S. National Pears Helene Day is March 15

Read More: Food Facts