Pears may not have the superfood reputation as other fruit (think blueberries!) but they can hold their own when it comes to nutrition.
Pears stand out for their excellent fibre content. One medium pear (with the skin) has almost six grams of fibre, one-quarter of the recommended daily intake for women. Diets high in fibre have many health benefits, including helping to control blood glucose levels, aiding with weight loss and lowering the risk of heart disease.
Pears also have a low glycemic index, which means they cause a gradual rise in blood sugar instead of a quick spike. Low glycemic index foods keep you feeling energized and satisfied longer than high glycemic foods such as crackers, cereal bars and white bread.
Pears also contain vitamin C, an immune-boosting antioxidant, and potassium, a mineral that helps keep blood pressure in check.
Pears have garnered a reputation of being hypoallergenic, since they are less likely to cause an allergic reaction like fruit such as cherries or kiwi. For that reason, pears are often one of the first fruits introduced to infants when they start eating solid foods.
Per 1 medium pear, with the skin on:
|Vitamin C||8 mg|
Source: Canadain Nutrient File 2007b
The five major varieties of pears grown in Canada include Bartlett, Clapp's Favourite, Anjou, Bosc and Flemish Beauty.
Bartlett pears are the most common worldwide. They're known for their bell-shape, sweet flavour and soft flesh. They have a light green skin that turns yellow when ripe.
Clapp's Favourite pears are similar in shape to Bartlett pears but have a much sweeter flavour. They have skin that turns golden-yellow when ripe.
Anjou pears are more egg-shaped, very aromatic and mildly sweet. Unlike Bartlett pears, the skin remains mostly green when ripe.
Bosc pears have an elegant elongated shape with a very slender neck. They have a fine texture and remain firm when ripe.
Flemish Beauty pears are roundish, with yellow skin that is speckled red.
In Canada, locally-grown pears are available from August through November.
Pears are unlike most other fruit due to the fact they ripen best after they're picked from the tree. Because pears are highly perishable once they ripen, most pears at the grocery store will likely be very firm. Once purchased, pears usually require a few days of maturing on a countertop at room temperature.
When buying pears look for ones that are firm with unblemished skin. Good quality pears are smooth-skinned and free of any surface markings. Avoid pears that are punctured or have dark soft spots. A ripe pear is relatively firm, but gives a little when pressed gently.
To speed up the ripening of pears store them close to bananas. Bananas release ethylene gas, a natural compound that quickens the ripening process of nearby fruit.
Unripe pears should be stored at room temperature on the countertop to allow them to ripen evenly.
Once their skin yields to gentle pressure, they're ready to eat or should be stored in the refrigerator to slow the ripening process.
Once ripe, pears will keep in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days.
Fresh pears are delicious eaten on their own and don't require any prep other than a quick wash. When eating fresh pears, leave the skin on for maximum nutrition - much of the fibre in pears is found in their skins
Once cut, a pear will oxidize quickly and begin to turn brown. To avoid this, eat immediately or sprinkle the pear with lemon, lime or orange juice.
If you're left with a basket of overripe pears, get creative and add them to soups, baked goods or smoothies. You can also thicken soups and sauces with pureed pears.
Baking: Bartlett and Bosc pears hold their shape well during cooking. Core the unpeeled fruit from the bottom, then cut a thin slice crosswise from the bottom so the pears will stand upright.
Place in a baking dish with a small amount of water; cover with foil and bake, 40 to 60 minutes, in a 325 F oven until tender, basting occasionally with the pan juices. If you're using pears that are halved, the cooking time will be reduced. Keep an eye on them and remove from the oven when they can easily be pierced with a fork.
Poaching: Pears can be poached in water, fruit juice or wine. Red wine or cranberry juice will tint them an elegant deep rose color. For extra flavour, add whole cloves, cinnamon sticks or ground spices to the cooking liquid.
To poach, rub peeled and cored whole pears with lemon juice, then place them in simmering liquid and cook, partially covered, for 15-20 minutes, until tender when pierced with a knife. Turn the pears once during cooking and baste them occasionally with the cooking liquid.
Sautéing: For tender-crisp pears, sauté unpeeled pear slices in fruit juice or stock; season with your favorite spices or try cinnamon, ginger or curry powder. Cook quickly at medium-high heat for 2 to 5 minutes.
Pears are incredibly versatile and suitable in a variety of dishes. They can be added to dishes raw, but they also bake, poach, sauté, roast and grill very nicely. Pears can be used as an ingredient in baked goods or made into jams, chutneys and preserves.
They're delicious when eaten on their own but are as equally tasty when paired with other foods such as walnuts, leafy greens and cheese.
Healthy ways to enjoy
- Top your breakfast cereal with sliced pear for a fibre boost.
- Make a breakfast smoothie by blending one peeled and cored pear with ½ cup (125 ml) each sliced berries, low fat milk (or calcium fortified soymilk) and 100% orange juice.
- Toss a sliced pear with mixed greens and balsamic vinaigrette for a delicious lunch. Make it a complete meal by adding chickpeas or water-packed light tuna.
- Make an open-faced steak, pear and gorgonzola cheese sandwich. Click here for the recipe.
- Roast a whole chicken with pears, walnuts and shallots. Click here for the recipe.
- Finish an autumn meal with a warm pear crisp. Click here for the recipe.
- Pears add a hint of sweetness when added to pureed soups, such as butternut squash and carrot.
- Enjoy a sliced pear with a handful of walnuts for an afternoon pick-me-up.
- Add a cup of diced pears to your favourite muffin or quick bread recipe for a healthy variation.
Did you know?
- Pears originated in eastern Asia and China and are related to roses.
- The cultivation of pears has been traced back over three thousand years.
- The scientific name for pear is Pyrus communis.