Recent studies have shown that the skin on pears contains at least three to four times as many phytonutrients as the flesh. These phytonutrients include antioxidant, anti-inflammatory flavonoids, and potentially anti-cancer phytonutrients like cinnamic acids. The skin of the pear has also been shown to contain about half of the pear’s total dietary fiber.

In recent studies measuring risk of type 2 diabetes in U.S. women, pears have earned very special recognition. Researchers now know that certain flavonoids in food can improve insulin sensitivity. All pears contain flavonoids and the flavonoids in pears have been associated with decreased risk of type 2 diabetes in both women and men. However, a new analysis of the Nurses’ Health Study has shown that of all the fruits and vegetables analyzed for their flavonoid content, the combination of apples/pears showed the most consistent ability to lower risk of type 2 diabetes.

Pears are one of the world’s oldest cultivated fruits. In 5,000 B.C., Feng Li, a Chinese diplomat, began grafting peaches, almonds, persimmons, pears and apples as a commercial venture. In The Odyssey, the Greek poet laureate Homer lauds pears as a “gift of the gods.” Pomona, goddess of fruit, was a cherished member of the Roman Pantheon and Roman farmers documented extensive pear growing and grafting techniques.

Thanks to their versatility and long storage life, pears were a valuable and much-desired commodity among the trading routes of the ancient world. Evident in the works of the Renaissance Masters, pears have long been an elegant still-life model for artists. In the 17th century a major increase in cultivation of the present pear varieties took place in Europe. And in popular culture, the pear tree was immortalized alongside a partridge in the 18th-century Christmas carol, The Twelve Days of Christmas.

Early colonists brought the first pear trees to America’s eastern settlements where they thrived until crop blights proved too severe to sustain widespread cultivation. Fortunately, the pear trees brought west to Oregon and Washington by pioneers in the 1800’s thrived in the unique agricultural conditions found in the Pacific Northwest.

Pear Picking Near Medford, 1910

Today’s Northwest pear varieties are the same or similar to those first cultivated in France and Belgium where they were prized for their delicate flavor, buttery texture, and long storage life. As more sophisticated irrigation and growing techniques developed during the past century, pear orchards flourished dramatically in the Northwest’s river valley regions located in a serpentine sprawl from Northern Central Washington to Central Southern Oregon.

Today, pear orchards in Oregon and Washington are as specialized as the regions that support them. Organic, commercial and multi-generation family orchards all contribute high-quality fruit to the Northwest’s fresh pear industry. Consumer interest and enjoyment of Northwest pears grows each year. Thanks to advancements in Controlled Atmosphere (CA) storage technology, fresh USA Pears are available to consumers nearly year-round.

There are many different types of pears. The most commonly known are Bosc, Bartlett, and Anjou.

Bosc pears are the large, slender pears with a rough brown skin. They hold their shape very well when cooked, so are an excellent choice for baked dishes.

Bosc

Barlett pears have rounded globes with soft and tender skin. They come in red and yellow varieties. They are perfect for eating out of hand because they are tender and juicy.

Barlett

Anjou pears, which are either red or green, are juicy and sweet, good for baking or eating fresh.

Anjou

The expensive and hard-to-find Comice is considered the best tasting, juiciest pear.

Comice

Seckel pears are tasty and very tiny, perfect for using in centerpieces.

Seckel

French Butter pears are hard to find but very tender, just like their name.

French Butter

To ripen pears just let them sit on the counter for a day or two; when they yield to gentle pressure they are ready to eat. Most pear varieties do not change color as they ripen; the yield test is the only way to tell if they are ready or not.

Pears can be served during any course of a dinner menu. Try some of the recipes below to see how versatile they can be.

Pear and Cranberry Cocktail

Use a high quality pear vodka, such as Grey Goose.

Makes 4 drinks

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cranberry juice
  • 3/4 cups pear vodka
  • 1/4 cup Triple Sec
  • juice of 1 lime
  • ice
  • Fresh pear slices
  • Fresh mint

Directions:

Add cranberry juice, pear vodka, triple sec and lime juice to a pitcher, stir to combine.

Fill 4 glasses with ice, pour cocktail over ice and garnish with a fresh pear slice and a mint sprig.

Appetizer Course

Pear and Prosciutto “Carpaccio”                                                                                                           

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 red Bartlett pear, cored, halved, and thinly sliced
  • 2 ounces very thinly sliced prosciutto
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

In a small saucepan, bring vinegar to a boil; cook, stirring occasionally, until syrupy and reduced to 2 tablespoons, about 5 minutes.

Divide the pear slices between two plates, arranging them in a circular pattern; top with prosciutto. Drizzle with balsamic syrup as desired, and season with pepper.

First Course

Risotto with Fresh Pear Sauce

Servings 4

Ingredients:                                                                                                                                                                         

  • 1 1/2 cups Carnaroli or Arborio rice
  • 1 onion
  • 3 cups vegetable stock
  • 2 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 oz grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • extra virgin olive oil to taste
  • salt and pepper to taste

Pear Sauce

  • 1 small clove of garlic
  • 2 sprigs marjoram
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • extra virgin olive oil to taste
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 pears plus sliced pear for garnish

Directions:

To make the sauce:

Peel the pears and cut into small pieces. Peel and finely chop the garlic. Wash the marjoram and pull off the leaves.

Place a skillet over medium heat. Add the oil and, once hot, add the pear. Saute for a couple of minutes. Season with salt and pepper, then add the garlic and marjoram. Cover with the broth and cook until the pears are soft.

Remove the pan from the heat. Let the pears cool, then puree the pan contents using a blender. Adjust the salt and pepper and keep the sauce warm until serving.

To make the risotto:

Peel and chop the onion.

Place a pot over medium heat. Add the oil and, once hot, add the onion.

Cook slowly so that it doesn’t brown. Add the rice and toast it for a couple of minutes or until it becomes transparent. Add a pinch of salt.

Add a couple of ladlefuls of broth to the rice. Once most of the liquid has evaporated, add more broth.

The rice should take about 16 to 18 minutes to cook, depending on its quality. When al dente, remove the pot from the heat and add half the cheese and all the butter. Stir and cover. Let rest for two minutes.

Then add the remaining cheese. Stir until creamy. Pour the pear sauce into the bottom of the individual bowls and spoon the risotto on top.

Garnish with a slice of pear, a sprig of marjoram and a grating or fresh black pepper.

Second Course

Italian Braised Pork Loin with Pears

Serves 6

Ingredients:                                                                                                                                                                         

  • 2 tablespoons coarse salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground fennel
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground (dry) mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 boneless pork loin, about 2 pounds, tied
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 15 small carrots, peeled, trimmed if desired
  • 15 pearl onions
  • 3 parsnips sliced into 15 pieces, trimmed and peeled
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed with the flat side of a large knife
  • 6 red Anjou pears

Directions:

Combine salt and spices. Coat pork with the spice mixture, and let stand at room temperature 30 minutes.

Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add oil. Add pork to pot. Sear pork until golden, turning with tongs, about 2 minutes per side. Stir in wine and bay leaves, scraping bottom of pot to loosen browned bits. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Partially cover, and simmer, basting meat with cooking liquid several times, 25 minutes. Remove pork from pot, and set aside.

Stir in carrots, onions, parsnips, and garlic. Simmer, uncovered, 10 minutes. Make a well in center; return pork to pot. Quarter and core pears. Add pears, and simmer until pears are tender and a meat thermometer inserted into center of pork registers 145 degrees for medium, about 15 minutes. Let rest in pot 5 to 10 minutes before slicing. Transfer the vegetables and pears to a platter with the sliced pork. Pour sauce through a fine sieve into a bowl; pour over pork.

 

Dessert

Italian Pear Tart

Yield – 10 inch tart

Almond Pastry Crust

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup finely ground blanched almonds or almond flour
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter (or Smart Balance Baking Blend), very-cold, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons ice water, very cold

Place ingredients in work bowl of a processor and process the ingredients until the dough forms a ball. (Add a little more ice water if the dough doesn’t form a ball.) Pat into a cylinder, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for an hour.

Tart Ingredients:

  • 1 tart crust
  • 5 pears, quartered, cored, peeled, and sliced
  • 2/3 cup sugar, divided or 1/3 cup light sugar alternative
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons amaretto liquor

Tart Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 10 inch glass pie plate.

Prepare the crust: Roll out the pastry on a floured surface and trim to fit the pie pan.

Poke the bottom and sides of the dough with a fork. Bake the crust approx 7-10 mins until lightly brown.

While pastry is baking do the following:

Slice pears thin and mix with half of the sugar and all the lemon juice.

Arrange pears over the crust in an attractive design (reserve 5 pear slices for glaze).

Bake until the pears are tender, about 40 minutes.

The Glaze:

While the tart is cooking bring remaining sugar, reserved pear slices, and 1/3 cup water to a boil in a small saucepan. Reduce heat to maintain a steady simmer and cook until the syrup thickens and the pear slices break down. (about 10 minutes) Take the syrup off the burner, set it aside and let it cool. Stir in the amaretto and brush over the pears. Cool.

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