Asian Pears: The Secret Life of an Asian Pear | Wednesday’s In the Know
It looks like an apple but tastes and has the consistency of a pear. Just what is this that I am enjoying?
As Melissa’s Produce states on their website, “Asian Pear is the generic name for over 25 different varieties of this "true pear." Although the outside appearance of each Asian Pear may differ, all Asian Pears are crunchy, juicy and sweet. Thought to originally come to the United States via Chinese immigrants, most Asian Pears are now grown in California, Oregon, and Washington.” – Melissa’s Produce
- Asian pears have a very short lifespan at the markets so start looking for them when the kiddos go back to school in September and straight through holiday break in December. You may find them before or after, but keep your eye on them as the quality may not be as “prime” as during their peak season.
- Sweet, juicy and crisp! A winning trio!
- Asian pears are true pears, but in terms of figure, they look more like apples. They tend to be round and so plump that you want to cup them in your hands and just stare at their lightly speckled skin for a moment before you take the first juicy bite. – Food52
- As with most things in life though, there are exceptions: Some Chinese varieties of Asian pears have the standard pyriform, or pear-shaped, figure that we associate with European pears. And Asian pears can have considerable variation in their skin too: Some varieties have smooth skin, and although we often think of them as a warm sandy brown (1, below), they can also come in shades of yellow, green, and reddish. – Food52
- If you hear someone refer to an Asian pear as “russeted” (this condition isn’t limited to Asian pears -- European pears and apples can have russeting too), this term refers to the skin having a slightly rough texture that is often described as “corky” or “net-like.” Russeting is brownish in color, and can cover just a small patch or an entire fruit. It’s a naturally occurring condition on some varieties of apples and pears, but it can also be a result of weather conditions. – Food52
What to look for?
- Given Asian pears ripen on the tree, they are ready to enjoy immediately. If you aren’t going to eat them right away, they will keep great in your fridge for a few months – of course, depending on the state in which you bought them. Just make sure you bring them to room temperature before enjoying to maximize on their full potential.
- Asian pears are usually sold in a foam netting (pictured above) sleeve that protects them from getting bruised. So, if some are gently nestled in the netting and others aren’t, opt for those that are!
- Gently touch the Asian pears and feel for a hard exterior with no soft spots which indicate bruising and a “mushy” texture. They should also look smooth with no noticeable blemishes or signs of intrusion from our friends in nature.
- Enjoy as is as you would an apple or pear: Slice and snack raw straight from your hand! No peeling needed, now how easy – and delicious – is that!
Ok, you got carried away and have more Asian pears than you know what to do with. Leave it to Food52 to come in and save the day! Here are a few of their great tips for making some delicious bites – and sips – while putting excess Asian pear’s to their fullest potential:
- Freeze: you can freeze them for later. Our friends at Frog Hollow Farm recommend coring your Asian pears (peeling first is optional, depending on your personal preference and how you’ll be using them), placing halves or slices on a baking sheet, and then freezing. After they’re frozen, transfer them to a freezer bag or freezer-safe container -- you'll be prepared when the urge for pear cake strikes.
- Juicing: Enjoy some Asian pear juice in your morning juice blend and save some to make Korean barbecue short ribs.
- Garnishing: Let them get boozy in a glass of mulled white wine or chop them up into a celery leaf and blue cheese relish for sprinkling over celery soup.
- Sliced Thin and Left Raw for a Salad: Elizabeth Schneider, author of Vegetables from Amaranth to Zucchini: The Essential Reference, notes, they're "so crisp-firm they can be cut paper-thin, their nectar welling up and pouring off each slice." Use your Asian pear slices in a salad with leafy greens, red onion, and cashews or in a greens-free salad with crunchy celery and fennel.
- Sauces: try this Asian Green Sauce, where they mingle with shiso, miso, and daikon.
- Mug: Use an Asian pear as a mug for a warm pear toddy. Don't forget to eat your mug.
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