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In Season: Pears

The Basics

Pears play well in both sweet and savory dishes, making them an excellent addition to any grocery cart or farmers' market bag. There are more than 5,000 named varieties grown worldwide, though, only a few of these are cultivated in the United States.

Varieties

Anjou and Bartlett pears are widely available and versatile -- they're great baked into desserts or eaten as a snack. Mix up the color by choosing the red version of these varieties. Comice pears are very sweet and have creamy flesh. A ripe Comice may exude lots of juice when cooked, adding too much moisture to some dishes. Cook with those that are slightly underripe, or enjoy them raw as a foil for cured meats or aged cheeses. Bosc pears, which are nutty in flavor, are firmer and denser than other varieties, so they're perfect for sauteing, poaching, or layering in a sandwich.

Buying and Storing

When shopping for pears, choose firm ones: Because most pear varieties are harvested when mature but not ripe, they typically need 2 to 4 days at cool room temperature to become soft and fragrant. A pear ripens from inside out, so check for ripeness at the thinner stem end -- the flesh should yield to gentle pressure. Once completely ripe, transfer pears to the refrigerator and use within 2 to 3 days.

Recipes

Pear And Frisee Salad with Bacon and Blue Cheese
Pressed Ham and Pear Sandwiches
Turkey Cutlets with Balsamic Pears
Pear and Cranberry Crisp
Pear and Chocolate Brioche Bread Pudding