Why is it that Apples get a whole lot of attention when fall comes along? First we have back to school season with children bringing their teacher a big shiny apple in hopes to impress them at the start of the school year. Then we have apple pies, apple crumble, caramel apples and more throughout Thanksgiving and Halloween. Yes, we all know that apples are in season between August and November, and that an apple a day keeps the doctor away. But least we forget there is another fruit out there that is often a little greener and sweeter, and most definitely nutritionally equal – The Pear!
To back up that claim, let’s take a look at the nutritional facts provided by BC Fruit Tree. As you can see here, the nutritional values are extremely similar when comparing apples to apples Oops! We meant pears.
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Pears, like apples, are considered a nutrient-dense food; a food that provides vital nutrients such as vitamins and minerals but low in calories. Pears are high in fiber, a great source of Vitamin C, fat and cholesterol free, sodium free, and a great source of potassium. Pears contain boron, a trace mineral that improves the body’s ability to absorb calcium and magnesium!
Taking a closer look at the species, both pears and apples and many other fruits we love, belong to the Rosaceae family. Rosacease, or the rose family, is medium sized family of flowering plants that includes herbs, shrubs, and trees. Some species are evergreen, but most under this family, like apples and pears are deciduous – in other words leaves, petals, or fruits when ripe or hit maturity will fall off the tree!
Although they are many types of Pears around the world, Canada focuses pear production in the 3 most popular variety, and production is limited to 3 mild winter climate regions – Okanagan Valley in British Columbia, Southern Ontario, and Nova Scotia. The 3 varieties includes:
The most commonly known variety for its round bottom and smaller neck shape (or pear shape as we know it). The Bartlett is also one of few pears where the skin changes colour when ripening– going from green to a clear yellowy colour. Its flesh is sweet and juicy with a fine grainy texture. The Red Bartletts is a red skinned alternative and may be imported to Canada from the USA.
Bartletts are best when eaten fresh and are wonderful with sliced cheese, on top of salads, used in canning and baby food!
Anjou is the pear popular with chefs for its year round availability. They are naturally sweet and bright green in colour. When it ripens, the colour of the skin doesn’t really change. Most of Canada’s Anjou pears are grown in BC! The Red Anjou is a red skinned alternative and may also be imported to Canada from the USA.
Anjous are best for those who prefer a firmer, crunchier pear. They do get a little softer and much juicier when ripe. A crunchier pear means denser flesh which makes Anjous great in baking, poaching and roasting as well.
The Bosc pear is the most elegant looking of the bunch. It still has the round bottom like the Bartlett, but its neck is much longer. It also stands out from the other two with its natural cinnamon brown russeting skin. Bosc is also a fall-winter pear, and are available between September and January.
Bosc’s flesh tends to remain firm even when ripe making them ideal for baking, broiling, or poaching. Their flavour also stands up well to strong spices such as cinnamon, clove, or nutmeg. With that said, they are still great eaten fresh.
USA Pears has great tips on how to tell if a pear is ripe. It’s super hard when the colour of their skin doesn’t change too much (except for the Bartlett variety).
To ripen a pear, leave it at room temperature. To slow a pear from ripening, leave it in a fridge.
At the markets today, you will see a large variety of pear, similar to apples, imported from all over the world. Some supermarkets may have an info sheet to help you choose the right pear based on your culinary use. Always remember, that any recipes calling for apples can be made using fresh pears!