Many fruits are out of season during the winter months, but pears are available nearly year-round, which makes them a great addition to any meal. I just bought some wonderful fresh pears locally last week so when I saw that December is National Pear Month I thought it would be a good time to share some information on buying, storing and adding pears to a healthful eating plan. Pears come in a variety of shapes, sizes and skin colors, including green, golden, yellow and red. Pears can be eaten raw or cooked. They are great as a quick snack, to chop and add to fruit salads, and can also be baked, broiled or grilled.
In terms of nutrition and health pears are an excellent source of dietary fiber. A medium sized pear has 24 percent of the recommended daily allowance. Pears also have potassium; a medium sized pear has about 190 milligrams of this important mineral. They have no saturated fat, sodium or cholesterol and are a great source of vitamin C. A medium pear has about 100 calories.
How do you know when a pear is ripe? Bartlett pears change from green to yellow as they ripen. Other varieties do not drastically change color when ripening. Pears ripen from the inside out, so check for ripeness by checking the neck. Gently press near the stem with your thumb. When it gives to gentle pressure it is ripe and ready to eat. When the pear is soft around the middle it is overripe.
Choose pears that are firm to the touch and free from bruises and blemishes. If the pears are ripe, they can be used immediately or refrigerated to slow down further ripening. If pears need to ripen, leave them out at room temperature for 7 to 10 days. Putting pears in a paper bag will help them ripen faster, but remember to check them daily so they do not get overripe.
Wash pears under running water before eating. When pears are cut up for dishes a natural browning occurs when they are exposed to air. A mild solution of water with lemon or lime juice added can slow this process. Remember, pears are great for snacking, but can also be used in baked goods and made into preserves, jams and chutneys. Overripe pears are still tasty, just not great for serving whole or sliced. They can still be used in smoothies, sauces, or as a thickening agent for soups or stews.
Donna Krug is the Family & Consumer Science Agent with K-State Research and Extension – Barton County. You may reach her at: (620)793-1910 or firstname.lastname@example.org