Apples are my go-to fruit this time of year. I’m always snacking on them and adding them to recipes. However this year, I’m shaking things up a bit with pears. Pears are one of the most common fruit as there are over 5,000 types world-wide. China is the largest producer of pears, followed by the United States, Italy, Argentina, and Spain.
In Canada, common varieties that are enjoyed include Bartlett pears, Bosc pears, Flemish Beauty pears, Anjou pears, Giffard pears, and Clapp’s Favourite pear. We grow them mostly in southwestern Ontario, Nova Scotia, and along the coast of British Columbia. However, southern New Brunswick, southwestern Alberta, and the south coast of Newfoundland are areas where pears are grown too.
The fruits often start to mature around mid-June and ready for harvest anywhere between mid-August to late November, depending on the type. Despite this short harvesting season, refrigeration or storage under controlled-atmosphere has allowed this fruit to be available in retail almost year-round. A little known fact about the pear is that it is one of the few fruits that do not ripen on the tree. The pear is harvested when it is mature, but not yet ripe, and, if left at room temperature, it slowly reaches a sweet and succulent maturity as it ripens from the inside out.
More Pear Facts
- The origin of the pear is debatable, but it is believed that European pears and Asian pears evolved separately around 1000 BC, while other species are native to parts of Africa.
- In ancient Greece, pears were used to treat nausea.
- Pears were brought to North America by European explorers in the early 1500.
- The pear belongs to the rose family, Rosaceae.
- Bartlett pears are the most common pear in Canada and world-wide.
- The Bartlett pear was originally called the Williams pear. The name changed when a man called Enoch Bartlett bought a Williams pear orchard and distributed the fruit as Bartlett pears, not knowing they had a name already.
Pear Ripening Tips at Home
- Leave firm, unripe pears at room temperature so that they can ripen. You can place them in a fruit bowl by bananas to ripen faster.
- Check the neck for ripeness daily, by applying gentle pressure to the neck, or stem end, of the pear with your thumb. If it yields to pressure, then it’s ripe and ready to eat!
- Once the pear is ripe, it can be refrigerated to slow the ripening process and saved for use up to five days later.
The Nutritional Benefits of Pears (important to eat the peel!)
Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables is the foundation for a healthy lifestyle, and pears are a delicious part of this menu. But what makes pears so healthy? Pears are low-calorie fruits, averaging 100 calories for a medium size pear. Along with being nutrient dense, pears are very high in fibre, with about 6 grams per medium fruit.
Fibre and Heart Health
- Many studies have shown that fibre may reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases, so much so that populations have been encouraged to increase their fibre intake (1). Dietary fibre helps to lower the bad cholesterol in the blood. High fibre diets have also been associated with lower blood pressure, lower risk of diabetes, and reduced inflammation (2).
Phytochemicals and Anti-Inflammatory
- Pears contain many phytochemicals, some of which exhibit anti-inflammatory (3). Researchers tested the effect of pear extracts on edema in rats, and it was found that the extracts were able to reduce the edema, as well as inhibit it (3).
Antioxidants (Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Flavonols and Anthocyanins) and Free Radicals
- Pears are a good source of vitamin C which assists in collagen formation in the body for wound healing. A study done in Singapore found that antioxidant tocopherols (Vitamin E) were found abundantly in the green pear (4). Various researchers have found the phenolic compounds flavonols and anthocyanins in the peel of pears (5). These phenolic compounds protect body cells from damaging free radicals, which are related to cancer and other diseases.
Pears eaten with the peel provide many nutritional health benefits. So I say yes – the pear is the new apple for me this season!
With Thanksgiving around the corner, here are two delicious recipes to try over the holiday…
- Pear, blue cheese, shallot and bacon salad from marthastewart.com
- Pear stuffing and turkey from tasteofhome.com
- Hopkins, K. D. Dietary fibre decreases cardiovascular events. The Lancet. 1996;348:1648.
- King, D.E., Player, M. Preventing cardiovascular disease in older adults: the role of fiber. (Report). Aging Health. 2010;6:211.
- Li, X. et al. Study on chemical composition, anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial activities of extracts from Chinese pear fruit. Food and Chemical Toxicology. 2012;50: 3673-3679.
- Isabelle, M. et al. Antioxidant activity and profiles of common fruits in Singapore. Food Chemistry. 2010;123:77-84.
- Galvis Sanches, A.C. et al. Comparative study of six pear cultivars in terms of their phenolic and vitamin C contents and antioxidant capacity. Journal of Science of Food and Agriculture. 2003;83:995-1003.