Pears

As a kid, I mainly ate two kinds of pears. The first kind were canned. For any special occasion at my grandparents, we would start in the den with shrimp cocktail. Then we would move to the dining room where at each place setting was a glass plate with tomato aspic for the adults and pear salad for the kids. For the pear salad, my grandmother would set a pear-half on a leaf of iceberg lettuce. She would add a dollop of mayonnaise in the center of the pear and top it with a sprinkle of cheddar cheese. Did I just hear all of you mayonnaise haters groan?

The other kind of pear was the kind that grew on the first tree outside of our backdoor. This was a large tree, easily higher than the window of my sister’s second floor bedroom. These pears were hard, gritty and rather bitter. I would occasionally pick one and eat it, but was never impressed with them. I was always under the impression that they just were not good eating pears.

Turns out, maybe I just wasn’t harvesting them right. The pears’ gritty texture is due to something called stone cells. The best way to minimize stone cells is to pick unripe pears and allow them to ripen off the tree. Done correctly, the texture is smooth and the pear is juicy.

Asian pears, totally different in both taste and texture to European pears (the typical ones grown around here), are one exception and should be allowed to ripen on the tree.

Nutritionally speaking, pears are a good source of fiber, have a bit of potassium and vitamin C – good things to have in a healthy snack.

At the farmers market last week, I picked up three types of pears, Bosc, Bartlett, and Comice. Barlette pears are light green and will turn more yellow when ripened. Bosc pears have a classic pear shape and a cinnamon-brown colored russeting. Comice pears, small in size, are the cutest, most perfect pears. I’d buy them just to look at them. Fortunately, they are not only adorable, they are also juicy and delicious. They are my favorite pear.

Store pears at room temperature until they start to soften. When ripe, they should give gently when pressed. Once ripened, store them in the fridge.

I do think about driving by my old house, picking some pears and letting them ripen properly. I wonder if they might boot Comice pears out of my favorite pear spot. I’d like to think that they would.