Updated: Dec 13, 2020
Pears are a member of the rose family of plants (Rosaceae), which, in addition to roses includes apples, apricots, cherries, chokeberry, crabapples, loquats, peaches, plums, quinces, raspberries, strawberries and almonds. There are more than 3,000 varieties of pears that people enjoy worldwide. The many different varieties of pears commonly found in U.S. groceries all belong to the same category known as European Pear.
Pears are found in a variety of colors, including many different shades of green, red, yellow/gold, and brown. Many varieties fail to change color as they ripen, making it more difficult to determine ripeness.
Nutrient Profile: Pears are a concentrated source of phytonutrients (plant nutrients). They are a very good source of dietary fiber and a good source of copper, vitamin C, and vitamin K.
Antioxidant and Anti-inflammatory benefits: This is due to the vast array of phytonutrients present in pears.
Decreased Risk of Type 2 Diabetes: The presence of dietary fiber helps reduce the risk of Type 2 DM. In addition, the phytonutrients in pears help improve insulin sensitivity. The famous Nurses Health Study (Harvard School of Public Health) has shown that among all fruits and vegetables analyzed for their flavonoid content, the combination of apples/pears showed the most consistent ability to lower the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Decreased Risk of Heart Disease: The fiber in pears helps to reduce cholesterol production in the body.
Reduced Cancer Risk: There is a reduction in the risk of colorectal, stomach and esophageal cancers.
Selection and Storage: Pears are very perishable once they are ripe. The pears you find at the market will generally be unripe and will require a few days of maturing. Look for pears that are firm, but not too hard. They should have a smooth skin that is free of bruises, punctures, dark soft spots or mold.
To determine whether a pear is ripe, gently press at the top of the pear, near its stem. If that spot gives in to pressure, the pear is probably optimally ripe for eating. To hasten the ripening process, place them in a paper bag, turning them occasionally, and keep them at room temperature.
If the flesh feels extremely soft, almost to the point of being squishy, the pear is overripe. For food safety reasons, overripe pears should only be used in cooked recipes rather than eaten raw.
If you will not be consuming the pears immediately once they have ripened, you can place them in the refrigerator where they will remain fresh for a few days. Pears should also be stored away from other strong smelling foods, whether on the countertop or in the refrigerator, as they tend to absorb smells.
Fresh pears are delicious when eaten raw after washing them under cool water. Eat the skin of the pear because half of the pear’s daily fiber and antioxidant and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients are present in the skin. Pears will start turning brown (oxidizing upon exposure to oxygen) as soon as they are cut. To prevent the browning, you can add a little lemon juice or vinegar to the pears.
According to the Environmental Working Group's 2020 report "Shopper's Guide to Pesticides," conventionally grown pears are one of the 12 fruits and vegetables on which pesticide residues have been most frequently found. Therefore, individuals wanting to avoid pesticide-associated health risks may want to avoid consumption of pears unless they are grown organically.
Recipe Suggestion: This is a delicious arugula and pear salad from Real Simple.