Origin of Pear
Pears are some of the oldest fruit in existence. According to the Nanjing Agricultural University, pears likely originated during the tertiary period, approximately 65 to 55 million years ago. Indeed, dried pears were found in Swiss caves dating back to the Ice Age. It’s speculated that species in the large Pyrus genus come from Europe, North Africa and Asia Minor. Even today, each of these regions cultivates distinct varieties from the other. Asian pears likely predate Occidental, or, European pears.
India received pears from China several centuries ago. Yukteshwar Kumar writes in his book, “A History of Sino-Indian Relations” that peach and pear came to India during the early years of the Eastern Han period (25AD to 220AD). Between the 16th and 18th centuries, many European travel writers note Kashmir’s fantastic royal gardens of the Mughals, mentioning the abundance of peach, pear, plum and cherry trees, with fountains spouting cold, icy water.
Availability of Pear in India
Though a staggering 3,000+ varieties of pear exist in the world, India cultivates approximately 24 varieties throughout Jammu and Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh, and Himachal Pradesh. India’s pear season ranges from late summer to early winter.
2011 figures from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization reveal that China dominates the world pear market, producing almost 16 million tons. This is 15 times as much fruit as the second highest country, Italy. The US, Argentina, Spain, and Turkey are other major producers.
Where to find Pear in India
Pear isn’t as beloved or well known in India as the mango, but it’s an important temperate crop second only to the apple. These fruits tend to be available in shops year-round, if only because India imports them during the off-seasons. Produce shops large and small will offer a few varieties at any given time.
Unfortunately, those in the south may not get the best tasting European pears compared to residents in the north. This is because of India’s limited ability to transport and package these perishable, sensitive fruits across long distances. Furthermore, the hardest, underripe fruits hold up best for long hauls, making the bounty sub-par on arrival in India’s southern regions.
Checking for Ripeness in Pear
Let the neck of the pear serve as the litmus test for ripeness. These fruits ripen inside first, and the neck is the flesh closest to the core. Waiting for the body to ripen will result in a mealy, bland, overripe pear instead of a flavorful, luscious fruit.
A good pear is firm, but not rock hard. Many are richly aromatic when ripe, so hold the pear to the nose as another good indicator. Russetting, or, hard brown speckles, are acceptable and in some cases, signal richer taste.
Some varieties of pear change color to indicate ripeness. Examples of these are cultivars are Bartlett, red Bartlett, conference, seckel, and Flemish beauty.
Types and Taste of Pear
Indian stores offer several varieties of pears, the most common being the following:
William Bartlett: these pears, grown in Uttar Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir, are hailed as some of the juiciest of all of the types. Indeed, one bite of a ripe Bartlett may cause its sticky sweet juice to dribble down the chin. Bartlett pears are one of the softest types, so do not expect them to hold their shape when cooked. Instead, use this variant to make pear butter or cream.
Red Bartlett: Similar to Bartlett pears, this type grows in Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh during the mid-season. This variety will grow brighter as it ripens, and give a floral aroma. How early it’s picked determines texture: if picked when fully ripe on the tree, the texture will be grainy. If picked at maturity, the texture is smoother and the taste is sweeter.
Conference: This late, tall-necked variety hailing from Britain grows in Uttar Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh. In early stages of ripeness, conference pears are crisp but grow buttery smooth at peak ripeness. Do not wait for this variety to turn golden yellow, as this indicates overripeness.
Bosc: India doesn’t grow this variety, but does import them. Boscs are crisp, sweet, and honey-like with a spicy edge. They hold their shape when heated, making them ideal for use in desserts and for poaching. Boscs are tastiest in the early stages of ripening.
Comice: A sweet variety with a creamy texture, grown in Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. Those preferring a headier, aromatic, and sweeter type of pear should select this type. These pears hold shape when cooked.
D’Anjou: Jammu and Kashmir grow D’anjous during the early season. This type has a bright, almost citrusy taste and stays in tact for grilling, poaching, and baking. D’Anjous will not change color upon ripening, and instead remain brightly green.
Seckel: Though small, this type packs a strong sugary punch. Its sweetness has earned it the moniker, “sugar pear.” A deep blush indicates its ripeness, and the fruit should yield to the touch near the stem. Seckels grow in Himachal Pradesh during the early season.
Flemish beauty: These pears, found during the late season in the high hills of Himachal Pradesh, radiate green skin and a large flush of red. As it ripens, the green deepens to yellow. Flemish beauties are fickle, as their taste and potential depend greatly on the picking’s timing. Sometimes the flesh is tender and buttery; other times, grainy and insipid.
Starking delicious: This mid-season variety grows in Himachal Pradesh. The texture is firm, smooth and juicy. It’s touted by growers as being “Bartlett quality,” and perhaps most importantly for any farmer, blight-free.
Winter Nellis: Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh grow this type in the late season. Though the flesh is quite firm, the taste is sweet and juicy. The firmness allows for cooking while holding shape. The fruit turns yellowish green when ripe, and is also highly aromatic.
Nutritional Value of Pear
According to the USDA nutrient database, 100g of pear contains the following values:
3.1g Fiber (12% RDI)
.1g Fat (neg)
.4g Protein (neg)
4.2mg Vitamin C (7% RDI)
4.5mcg Vitamin K (6% RDI)
7mcg Folate (2% RDI)
7mg Magnesium (2% RDI)
119mg Potassium (3% RDI)
.1mg Copper (4% RDI)
Manganese (2% RDI)
Health Benefits of Pear
Pears are low acid fruits, which may be one reason why they’re recommended as an introductory food for infants.
WhFoods.com's website offers a list of health benefits, including the following:
--Pears, along with apples, have some of the highest flavonol content of any fruit. These compounds are responsible for sweeping free radicals and thus slow aging, boost heart health and regulate cholesterol levels. These flavonols also have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancerous compounds.
--The fiber content of pears staves off type II diabetes, heart disease, and regulates cholesterol
--According to a study conducted by the National Health Institutes and published in the 2007 edition of the International Journal of Cancer, pear consumption, in tandem with other stone fruits, lowers the risk of developing esophageal cancer.
--Pears contain chlorogenic acid, which, in one 2013 study published in Naunyn-Schmiedeberg’s Archives of Pharmacology, was found to contribute to the prevention and treatment of gastric ulcers.
--According to a 2013 study published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, chlorogenic acid also protects acetaminophen-induced liver injury when tested in mice.
How to Open/Cut:
Pears can be prepared like an apple: coring, and peeling if desired. Though washing pears is recommended, the peel has most of the fruit’s nutrients. Thus, expect to lose a considerable amount of the fruit’s health benefits if opting to peel it.
Pears are perishable, so eat within a few days of the fruit becoming ripe. Refrigerating the fruit will extend its lifespan by another two days. Because pears take on the smells of nearby foods, avoid placing them too close to onions, chopped garlic, or other pungent foods.
Pears can be frozen for later use. Soak slices or chopped pears in water with lemon juice beforehand, as this will ensure they don’t become brown. Next, steam or blanch the pear slices—heat is critical; otherwise, they will become mushy when frozen. Then, place the pieces on parchment paper and place in the freezer. Once frozen, transfer into a bag and place back in the freezer.
Pear Recipe Ideas and Uses:
Pears work well in a variety of savory and sweet dishes, and they are exceptionally versatile on account of their ability to withstand high heat.
--Make pear tart tatin, pies, and empanadas. Marinade the fruits beforehand in warm, savory spices like nutmeg, cinnamon, maple syrup, and clove.
--Serve pears atop crackers and (vegan) cheese: use this combination to make bruschetta, crostini and flatbreads
--Fold chopped pears in spiced pancake and muffin batter
--Add a thin slice of pear on a white cheese grilled sandwich with sweet balsamic vinegar spread.
--Include chopped pears as part of a morning oatmeal, yoghurt or muesli mix
--Place glazed pears atop vegan cheesecake
--Make a classic poached pear dessert complete with vegan custard sauce
--Add grilled pear to skewers
--Include caramelized pears with warm cider drinks
--Add pears to salads with an Asian twist, or with ingredients like pecans, figs, vegan cheese, balsamic, almonds and raspberries.
--Make brown sugar pear butter
--Go classic by canning the fruits, or by making a pear jam
--Add slices of pear to white pizza recipes. Top with ingredients such as fig, feta (or finely grated soya paneer), olive oil, rock salt, fennel, basil, and rosemary.
|Yumuniverse.com's vegan pear galettes|
Apple, peach, apricot, quince, beet, orange, banana, fig, cherry, strawberry, squash, pumpkin, endive, cranberry
Herbs, spices, and oil: olive oil, balsamic vinegar, barbeque sauce, salt, black pepper, rosemary, basil, fennel, endive, dill, star anise, cardamom, ginger, chocolate, cinnamon, mace, nutmeg, clove, lavender, honey, vanilla, currant, maple syrup, nut butter, almond, pecan, hazelnut, walnut, raisin
Chinese use the word, “lee” to denote a wild pear, and “li” as reference to a cultivated one.