In his epic poem, The Odyssey, Homer referred to pears as the “gift of the gods”. In the French court of Louis XIV, pears were considered a luxury. And just last week, the girls and I were at a local farm stand where we sampled the luxurious flavors of the best pears we’ve ever eaten. Perfectly ripe, crisp, and juicy…
The first pears in America date back to the 1620s, when early colonists planted the first pear tree. Today, pears are produced predominantly in three states – Washington, Oregon, and California. Their peak season is August through early November.
Pears are an excellent source of fiber, predominantly pectin, which reduces cholesterol and supports good digestive and colon health. Much of the fiber is found in the skin, so be sure to eat it!
In speaking of the skin, be sure to buy your pears organic. Conventional pears receive an average of 10 pesticide applications per season, in addition to fungicide, herbicide and possible sulfite treatments. They are one of the most toxic conventional fruits in our supermarkets today.
Make the effort to go organic, and pears are one of the healthiest foods for just about everyone. They are hypoallergenic, meaning it is highly unlikely that you or anyone in your family will suffer an allergic response. This is why pear is often recommended as a first choice for babies.
Pears also contain vitamin C, copper, vitamin K, vitamin E, Riboflavin, and potassium. A better source of potassium than a banana, if you can believe it!
Freshly squeezed pear juice is a great remedy for a hangover. This is not to be confused with the prickly-pear cactus, also useful for hangovers, though not at all related to the pear. For juicing, firm pears are recommended.
Finally, pears are a cooling food, clearing both heat and mucus. Combining pears with warming spices is particularly beneficial in the cooler months. You can find my recipe for Spiced Pears With Chocolate Sauce here.
Purchasing and Storing Pears:
Pears are picked hard off the pear tree to prevent over-ripening. Choose firm pears and prepare to ripen them at room temperature for 3-5 days. Alternatively, you can ripen them in a paper (not plastic) bag. This will shorten the time it takes to ripen by 1-2 days. Once ripe, they can be refrigerated to stop over-ripening, but should be eaten rather quickly.
Enjoy your pears whole and raw, or in salads and smoothies. Pears can be poached with spices, or served with raw goat cheese. Try slicing pears into your favorite breakfast oatmeal, quinoa or other breakfast porridge. Finally, if decadence is what you seek, pears are delicious with chocolate.
To prevent raw pears from browning, add a sprinkle of fresh lemon juice.