The pear is a fruit that has been cultivated for centuries. Though there are thousands of varieties of pears, only about ten are grown and sold commercially. While pear culture is somewhat similar to apple culture, several factors inhibit pear production. Nevertheless, there are quite a few roadside market growers of pears primarily in the apple-producing areas of the state.
The Kieffer variety is an old variety that produces a fairly reliable product. Many homes in central and eastern North Carolina have one or more Kieffer trees. This variety will generally produce some fruit every year. Although the fruit is rough and of limited dessert quality compared to Bartlett, it is still used for jams, jellies, preserves, canning, and fresh eating.
— When purchasing, the pear should feel firm. It gradually becomes less firm as it ripens at home.
— Select pears that are free from bruises or injury to the skin.
— The ripeness of pears is best judged by color. Check for good color for the variety you are considering buying. For example, the Bartlett pear when unripe is green; when ripe it changes to yellow. Other pears will ripen to different colors.
— Some pear varieties, such as the Bosc and Concorde, do not change color. In this case, check by applying gentle thumb pressure near the stem end. The pear is ready to eat when the fruit gives slightly.
— To ripen pears, place in a loosely closed paper bag at room temperature until the flesh responds easily to a gentle pressure at the neck with your thumb. Check pears daily for ripeness. Always handle pears gently. They bruise easily, which can lead to rapid decay of the fruit.
— After pears are ripened, store them in the refrigerator.
— Rinse pears gently with cool water before eating.
— Pears will turn brown when exposed to air. You can avoid this by coating pears with an acidic juice such as lemon, orange, or pineapple juice. Cut them as close to serving time as possible.
A medium-sized pear (3½ ounce) provides about 100 calories and 6 grams of fiber in the diet. Pears also contain potassium, copper, and vitamins C and K.
Due to the many variables, such as moisture content, size, and variety, it is impossible to give specific recommendations as to quantities to buy. The recommendations below are approximations only.
• 1 pound = 2 cups sliced pears
• 1 pound = 2 or 3 medium-sized pears
• 1 bushel = approximately 50 pounds
— Pears are great eaten out-of-hand, cold from the refrigerator. The cold temperature will enhance the pear’s flavor.
— Dot pears with brown sugar and light margarine or butter and broil for a meat accompaniment.
— For a quick relish, mix 3 coarsely chopped pears with 2 tablespoons melted margarine or butter, 2 tablespoons of brown sugar, and 1 cup of chili sauce. Serve with poultry.
— Pear slices, English walnuts, and a variety of cheeses served with a ruby Port wine makes an elegant party menu.
— Breakfast is brighter with pear slices topped with blueberries and sprinkled with brown sugar and a dash of nutmeg.
— For an unusual dessert with an Italian meal, squeeze fresh lemon juice over pear halves, sprinkle with oregano, and serve with cheddar cheese.
Source: Ohio Cooperative Extension, North Carolina Cooperative Extension
Fresh Pear Crisp
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup quick cooking oats
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, divided
3 tablespoons cold reduced-fat margarine, cut into pieces
4 cups sliced, peeled pears (about 2 pounds)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
½ teaspoon ground ginger
In a bowl, combine the flour, oats, brown sugar and ½ teaspoon cinnamon. Cut in margarine until coarse crumbs form. Set aside. Place pears in a large bowl. Sprinkle with sugar, lemon juice, lemon peel, ginger, remaining cinnamon. Toss to coat. Transfer to an 8 inch square baking dish coated with nonstick spray. Sprinkle with crumb mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 – 50 minutes or until pears are tender. Yield: 9 servings
Spiced Pear Chutney
1 small onion chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2/3 cup cider vinegar
¼ cup packed brown sugar
¼ cup chopped dates
1 ½ tsp. mustard seed
1 tsp. ground ginger
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. ground coriander
3 cups chopped peeled ripe pears
In a small saucepan coated with cooking spray, cook and stir the onion and garlic over medium heat for 2 minutes. Stir in the vinegar, brown sugar, dates and seasonings.
Bring to a boil. Reduce heat. Carefully stir in pears. Cook, uncovered, over low heat for 40 – 50 minutes or until pears are tender and mixture achieves desired thickness.
Sandra R. Cain is the Bladen County Extension director. She can be reached at 910-862-4591 or firstname.lastname@example.org.