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Pears - An Excerpt from Whole Foods Companion

Pears - An Excerpt from Whole Foods Companion

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"Pears" - An excerpt from Whole Foods Companion by Dianne Onstad. Chelsea Green Publishing Company. Copyright 1996, 2004.
"Pears" - An excerpt from Whole Foods Companion by Dianne Onstad. Chelsea Green Publishing Company. Copyright 1996, 2004.

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Categories:Types, Recipes/Menus
Published by: Chelsea Green Publishing on Feb 12, 2010
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reserved

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11/14/2012

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revised and expanded edition
DIANNEONSTAD
a guide for adventurous cooks, curiousshoppers, and lovers of natural foods
WHOLEFOODS
COMPANION
 
because of the stones, these are the type most com-monly used for canning and jam.
Freestone
peaches tend to show up later, arriving in July and lasting into September. These are the most popularvarieties for eating fresh since they can be split in half by hand and the stones easily removed. Freestones are largerthan clingstones, are less juicy, and have a firmer texture,but they are nevertheless very fragrant and sweet tastingand are excellent for canning and baking into pies.
Pear
(Pyrus communis)
There are only ten minutes in the life of a pear when it is perfect to eat.
—Ralph Waldo Emerson
Pyrus 
is the classical Latin name for the pear tree, while
communis 
means “common, general, or gregarious.” TheEnglish word
 pear 
derives from the Latin term.
General Information
The pear tree seems to have originated in western Asiaaround the Caspian Sea. Some pears are the distinctivepear shape, while others are elongated, and still others areround. The Romans introduced this fruit into Europe.More than five thousand varieties can now be listed, somespread throughout the world, others found in only onecountry or even limited to a small locality. In 1850, pears were so popular in France that it was the fashion amongthe elite to see who could raise the best specimen, and thefruit was celebrated in song and verse. In the United Statesthe pear is almost as much a national favorite as the apple,to which it is related—both are members of the rose family and pome fruits (those with a distinct seeded core). Peartrees were brought to North America by early colonists, who used cuttings from European stock, and the fruit wasintroduced into California by Franciscan monks, whoplanted them in mission gardens. Today 95 percent of  American-produced commercial pears are grown in Washington, Oregon, and California. Unlike most treefruits, pears are best ripened off the tree; when tree-ripened, they develop little grit cells, or stones, in the flesh.Separated from the tree, this process cannot take place, andthey ripen evenly and smoothly, with a creamy texture.
Buying Tips
Most pears are yellow and have brown or reddish overtonesto them, depending on their variety. Select firm, unblem-ished fruit. They are fully ripe when they give to gentlepressure. Since pears ripen from the core outward, becareful not to let them soften too much, as they will turnto mush. Avoid those that are bruised, have rough scaly areas, or have soft flesh near the stem. Let pears ripen athome either on the counter or in a brown paper bag. Neverstore a pear sealed in plastic. Without freely circulatingoxygen, the core will turn brown and brown spots willdevelop under the skin. When fully ripe and soft, pearsshould be stored in the refrigerator and used within acouple of days.
Culinary Uses
Pears are elegantly seductive. Sweet, juicy, wonderfully tex-tured, and highly nutritious, they have the most subtle tasteof all orchard fruit and leave the palate delightfully freshand clean. They are probably the easiest fruit to identify by their shape: the small stem end gradually broadens to aplump blossom end like a bell. Properly ripened, pears areso tender they were once called the “butter fruit.” They canbe used in all the same ways as apples, including for cider(called “perry”). Fresh pears make wonderful companionsfor wine, bread, and a mixture of sharp cheeses. Hollowedpear halves make attractive boats for various fillings.
Health Benefits
pH 3.50–4.60. Pears are extremely rich in alkaline elements,have a strong diuretic action, are helpful for constipation and
99
FRUITS
Pear
 / Nutritional Value Per 100 g Edible Portion
Raw Raw
Calories59Protein0.39 gFat0.40 gFiber1.40 gCalcium11 mgIron0.25 mgMagnesium6 mgPhosphorus11 mgPotassium125 mgSodium0 mgZinc0.120 mgCopper0.113 mgManganese0.076 mgBeta Carotene (A)20 IUThiamine (B
1
)0.020 mgRiboflavin (B
2
)0.040 mgNiacin (B
3
)0.100 mgPantothenic Acid (B
5
)0.070 mgPyridoxine (B
6
)0.018 mgFolic Acid (B
9
)7.3 mcgAscorbic Acid (C)4 mgTocopherol (E)0.50 mg
 
poor digestion, and are valuable as general cleansers of thesystem. Their iodine content helps to keep the thyroid func-tioning properly and the metabolism balanced. Pears are anexcellent source of water-soluble fibers, including pectin. Infact, pears are actually higher in pectin than apples. Pectinreduces serum cholesterol and cleanses the body of environ-mental and radioactive toxins. The regular consumption of pears is believed to result in a pure complexion and shiny hair. Dried pears are a good energy producer in the winter-time as well as a delicious snack year-round.
VARIETIES
 Anjou(Beurre d’Anjou)
are the most abundant wintervariety of pear. Originating in France or Belgium in thenineteenth century, they are a round, yellowish-greenpear that tapers bluntly to the stem end, with a thick,barely noticeable neck and no waistline. Belonging tothe bergamot group of pears, their skin remains greenbut develops a definite glow when ripe; they should beeaten only when they yield to gentle pressure. Althoughthe skin is not tough, it is not as sweet as the meat andhas a slightly grainy texture. The flesh is spicy-sweet and juicy with a firm texture. Anjous are a wonderfuldessert pear; their firm texture makes them the bestpear for cooking and baking, since they never seem tolose their shape. Available from October through May.
Bartletts
 were first raised in 1770 in Berkshire, England,by a schoolmaster named John Stair. Arriving inLondon, this variety of pear was called
Williams
afterMr. Williams of Middlesex, who distributed them. In1798 or 1799, it was brought to the United States andplanted in Dorchester, Massachusetts, under the nameof 
Williams’ Bon Chretien
. Enoch Bartlett acquired theestate in 1817 and, not knowing the true name of thepear, distributed it under his own name. In other partsof the world it is still known as Williams or Williams’Bon Chretien. The Bartlett is a true pyriform pear, witha definite waistline and a long stem; it is a large, golden-yellow summer pear, bell-shaped, with smooth, clearskin, often blushed with red. It has white, finely grainedflesh that is juicy and delicious. The yellow variety ripens very quickly once picked and bruises easily (evenloud noises are said to hurt them); they are best eaten while still flecked with green. The most common variety grown today, Bartletts comprise more than 65 percent of commercial production. They are excellent canners anddessert fruit but are too fragile for lunch bags and picnicbaskets. Available July through December.
Bosc(Beurre Bosc)
are a member of the conical pearfamily and are long, tapered, and waistless. They aregenerally medium-sized, dark yellow, with rough brownskins and long, narrow necks. When properly ripened,they become a dark russet color and respond to gentlepressure. The meat is firm and almost crunchy, cream-colored, very juicy, and smooth-textured. The largerones usually have the best flavor and sweetness. Anexcellent pear for eating out of hand, the Bosc holds up well in lunch pails, picnic baskets, and fruit bowls; it isalso wonderful baked, broiled, poached, or preserved. Available from October through May.
Clapp
pears are hardly ever shipped but are frequently available at roadside stands and farmer’s markets. Thegreen Clapp pear has a thinner skin than most, whilethe red Clapp has a heavier skin and a slightly firmertexture. Of medium size, they have very white flesh, ahigh sugar content, and plenty of juice.
Comice(Doyenne du Comice)
—meaning “best of theshow”) pears have the reputation of being the sweetestand most flavorful pears. They have a definite pyriformshape, with a short, wide stem end, a waistline, and avery wide blossom end. Somewhat squat and irregularly formed, they are heavily perfumed, with a heady,musky fragrance. Their color during peak ripeness is asoft green that glows with a golden aura and is some-times slightly bronzed or flecked. Similar in size to the Anjou, they are distinguished from their cousin by a redblush. Their skin is so thin and the flesh so wet thatanything more than a gentle stroke leaves a mark; theircreamy smooth flesh literally melts in the mouth. Best when eaten fresh, they are also delectable baked intodesserts. Available from October through January.
Packhams(Packham’s Triumph)
are mostly imported,although some are grown in California. Coming in pri-marily medium and large premium sizes, this pear has adefinite pear shape, but the wide bottom is irregular, with a deep blossom end. They also have a perfume thatadds to their exotic flavor. Very, very juicy and sweet, aPackham pear at its peak (just turning soft gold all over)begs to be taken home. Available from late June toSeptember.
Red Bartletts
are a development of Northwestern peargrowers and are fast becoming increasingly available.The red skin is heavier than the yellow variety, the pig-
FRUITS
100

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