While everyone is busy getting pumped for apple season, I'm thinking about how to pick pears. Remember: There's another equally delicious fall fruit that deserves your attention, too. Pears may not get as much hype, but they're just as tasty, snackable, and fun to cook with as any old apple. The one downside to this oft forgotten fruit: They're just as tricky to shop for. If you don't know what you're looking for, it can be nearly impossible to tell the good pears from the bad when you're at the supermarket.
As is the case with apples, there are no obvious clues that will tell you if a pear is good or not, but there are a handful of really subtle ones that'll point you in the right direction. Here, Randy Davidson, global produce field inspector at Whole Foods Market, tells SELF about all the little things you should be on the lookout for. Along with the fact that a bruised pear isn't always a bad thing, this is everything you should know.
There are many different kinds of pears, but just a few common ones.
During peak pear season (from September to January), you'll see many, many, many different kinds of pears at the farmers market, but for most of the year, Davidson says you'll only really see three at the supermarket: Anjou, Bartlett, and Bosc. Less common varieties that you may also encounter outside of peak pear season include Golden Russet and Comice.
Bartlett pears are green with a red blush and a sweet and creamy flavor that makes them equally great for snacking on and adding to salads, Davidson explains. He calls Anjou pears "America's favorite pear," because they're super sweet and juicy, perfect for baking or grilling (yes, grilled pears are a thing, and they are amazing). They can be either green or red. And finally, Bosc pears are brownish-yellow, and they're also great for snacking on or adding to salads because they have an excellent spicy-sweet flavor.
As for those less common varieties, Golden Russet pears are copper colored and very sweet (a favorite of Davidson's!), and Comice pears are extremely delicate, with very thin, fragile skin and juicy, silky, sweet flesh. Since these types are less common, you're best off enjoying them as they are.
Since pears have very delicate skin, light bruising isn't necessarily a bad thing.
Though it's generally not a good thing when a piece of fruit is bruised, Davidson says it's not that big of a deal when it comes to pears. Because Comice pears are more tender than most, he explains that light bruising commonly occurs during production. He assures me these marks are purely cosmetic, though, adding that they don't normally affect the pear's interior.
Though light bruising is fine, dark spots or punctures are not.
Avoid any pears with large dark or mushy spots and tears in the flesh. He says those are the common indicators of a bad pear, and they mean that the fruit will decay faster than normal.
To find a good pear, you'll need to get a little touchy-feely.
"The best way to tell if a pear is ripe is by feel," says Davidson. Start by gently applying pressure to the neck (the area where the stem is). If it yields, that means its ripe. "Pears texture should be fairly firm and consistent, but with more give near the stem end when ripe," he explains. "Harder fruit is less ripe."
If you accidentally buy an unripe pear, know that it will continue to ripen.
Like apples, pears release a large amount of ethylene, the gas that causes fruit to ripen. If you buy a pear and it's still really hard, you can ripen it until it's soft by storing it in a brown paper bag—this will trap the ethylene and expedite the ripening process. Alternatively, Davidson says you can also store them in a fruit bowl at room temperature and they will eventually come around. Once they've reached your desired ripeness, he recommends storing them in the fridge to increase their lifespan.
Use your peak season pears in these recipes.
Cinnamon Pear Cottage Cheese
This may not seem like an obvious flavor combo, but it's all you're going to want to eat this fall after you try it. Get the recipe here.
Quinoa and Spinach Salad With Pear and Goat Cheese
Pears add an excellent crunch and sweetness to all kinds of different salads. Get the recipe here.
Pear With Peanut Butter Yogurt Dip
This fall snack is simple, yet satisfying. Get the recipe here.