A member of the rose family, the ever-popular pear is related to the apple. As with apples, there are thousands of different pear varieties. Pears are thought to have originated in China, where they have been cultivated from as early as 2000 BC. Nowadays, China is the world’s biggest producer of pears. There seems to be some debate about whether the European pear developed independently of its Asian counterpart or is the result of the original Chinese pear spreading west to Asia Minor and then Europe. If you’re wondering how pears made it to the UK, you can, as always, blame the Romans, who had a well-documented love of both raw and cooked pears.
- Pear fun facts and trivia
- Pear nutrition data and benefits
- How to store pears
- Can you freeze pears?
- How to clean and prepare pears
- What can you make with pears?
- The most common pear varieties in the UK are comice, conference, Williams, and concorde pears
- Pear trees can produce fruit for up to 100 years
- Pears were sacred to several goddesses in Greek and Roman mythology (Hera, Aphrodite, Pomona, Juno and Venus).
- Not all varieties of pear are pear shaped. Some are naturally round and look like apples, for example, the Asian pear.
- Also not pear shaped are the Buddha shaped pears, which are actually regular pears grown inside a special mould that forces the fruit into the shape of a cute laughing Buddha as it grows.
Originating in China, they were invented by a local farmer and are now among the world’s most expensive fruit. If you have your own pear tree, you can attempt to grow your own, as the Buddha pear mould is readily available to buy online.
- And more from China: A traditional Chinese belief is that sharing a pear with friends or family or giving one as a gift at a wedding, Chinese New Year celebrations or any other event that symbolises the formation of a union is bad luck. This is because the word for “sharing a pear” is similar to the word for “separation” in Mandarin.
Pears are low in calories, easy on the stomach and good for aiding digestion, as they are high in fibre. They are a good source of antioxidants, vitamins C and K, and potassium. They also provide smaller levels of vitamin B6, magnesium, folate, iron, calcium and riboflavin. Red-skinned pears also provide good levels of carotenoids, flavonoids and other antioxidants.
Pears do not ripen on the tree, and they also ripen from the inside out. This means that a pear that’s soft on the outside may actually be overripe on the inside.
Unripe pears can be left at room temperature to ripen. You can speed up the process by storing them in a paper bag or keeping them next to bananas and avocados. A pear is ripe when its neck gives slightly to pressure when pressed gently. Once ripe, store pears in the fridge, where they can be kept for a few days.
Pears can be frozen when they are just ripe, but not overripe. Keep them refrigerated until you can freeze them.
To freeze, wash, peel, half and core the pears, then place them on a baking sheet and freeze in batches. Once frozen, move to a box or bag and label clearly with the date. Pears can be kept in the freezer for up to 10 months.
Just like apples, pears don’t really need to be peeled before eating if you’re eating them raw. Just wash them and, if you’re so inclined, slice them and core them. Pear seeds, like apple seeds, contain trace amounts of cyanide, but you’d need to eat a lot of them for this to cause you any harm.
Most pear recipes, however, call for peeling and coring the fruit. This video shows a great way to peel pears quickly, which is handy when you need to peel a lot of them!
- Pears are famously used in desserts and can be poached, stewed, baked (in tarts, cakes, pies, crumbles, fruit bread, or just on their own in wine, honey or maple syrup. They pair well with chocolate, cinnamon, almonds and nuts. Try this pear tart tatin recipe if you don’t have an ovenproof pan.
- Pears are also great eaten with cheese like cheddar, brie, camembert, etc., or sliced and added raw to salad. They work well with green salad leaves, fennel, nuts or dried fruit like cranberries.
- Pears can also be added to savoury stews, both meat-based and vegetarian, where they lend a delicate sweetness. This is a practice that dates back hundreds of years.