There is some debate about the exact origins of the European pear, but many experts believe that European pears and Asian pears evolved separately and during the same approximate time in history (roughly 1000 BC). Certain species of pear are also native to parts of Africa. Thousands of varieties have been bred and named since ancient times in Europe alone. The pear was introduced into the New World by British and other Europeans as soon as the colonies were established. Also at an early date, Spanish missionaries carried the fruit to Mexico and California.
The many different varieties of pears commonly found in U.S. groceries all belong to the same category known as European Pear. These pears typically have a rounded body that tapers into a neck of various lengths.
They are distinct from (but closely related to) the fruit we commonly call “pear apple.” Pear apples are completely round with no necks, and while they remind of us of apples in shape, their skins make us think they are pears. Contrary to popular belief, pear apples are not a cross between apples and pears. Pear apples belong to a second category of pear, broadly referred to as Asian pear. Included in this second category are Chinese pears, Japanese pears, and Korean pears as well as Siberian/Manchurian pears. When these categories are combined, they account for more than 3,000 varieties of pears that people enjoy worldwide.
Pears are found in a variety of colors, including many different shades of green, red, yellow/gold, and brown. Many varieties fail to change color as they ripen, making it more difficult to determine ripeness.
Pears are excellent source of water-soluble fiber. They contain vitamins A, B1, B2, folic acid and niacin. It is also rich in copper, phosphorus and potassium, with lesser amounts of calcium, chlorine, iron, magnesium, sodium and sulfur.
Some varieties have more iron content than others. This can be seen when a cut pear turns brown. If it doesn’t turn brown, it means that the iron content is very low or non-existent.
Pears are an excellent source of natural dietary fiber. One pear will give you 24% of your recommended daily allowance of fiber. Fiber contains no calories, and is a necessary element of a healthy diet as it helps sustain blood sugar levels and promotes regularity. Studies indicate that diets high in fiber may reduce the risk of heart disease and certain types of cancer.
Pears also contain pectin which is a type of soluble fiber that binds to fatty substances in the digestive tract and promotes their elimination. This seems to help lower blood cholesterol levels. Soluble fiber also helps regulate the body’s use of sugars.
Pears are actually higher in pectin than apples. They are often recommended by health care practitioners as a hypoallergenic fruit that is high in fiber. They are less likely to produce an adverse response than other fruits. Pears are often recommended as a safe fruit to introduce to infants. Pears are an extraordinary source of dietary fiber when the skin is eaten along with the flesh. Pears are also an excellent source of vitamin C and vitamin E, both powerful antioxidants and essential nutrients.
Blood pressure: Pears have anti-oxidant and anti-carcinogen glutathione which help prevent high blood pressure and stroke.
Cancer prevention: The high vitamin C and copper content act as good anti-oxidants that protect cells from damages by free radicals.
Cholesterol: The high content of pectin in pears makes it very useful in helping to lower cholesterol levels.
Colon health: When not juicing, eat the pear whole for its precious fiber that are highly beneficial for your colon health.
Constipation: The pectin in pears is diuretic and has a mild laxative effect. Drinking pear juice regularly helps regulate bowel movements.
Energy: You can get quick and natural source of energy from pear juice, due largely to its high amounts of fructose and glucose.
Fever: The cooling effect in pear is excellent in relieving fever. Best way to bring a fever down quickly is by drinking a big glass of pear juice.
Immune booster: The anti-oxidant nutrients in pears are critical in building up your immune system. Drink pear juice when you feel a cold coming.
Inflammation: Pear juice has an anti-inflammatory effect and helps relieve sufferers of much pain in various inflammatory conditions.
Osteoporosis: Pears contain high level of boron. Boron helps the body to retain calcium, thus prevents or retards osteoporosis.
Pregnancy: The high content of folate (folic acid) prevents neural tube defects in infants.
Throat problem: Drinking pear juice every morning and night since it nourishes the throat and helps prevent throat problems.
Vocal chord: Boil two Chinese pear juice with some raw honey and drink warm. This is extremely healing for the throat and the vocal cord.
HOW TO SELECT AND STORE
Since pears are very perishable once they are ripe, the pears you find at the market will generally be unripe and will require a few days of maturing. Look for pears that are firm, but not too hard. They should have a smooth skin that is free of bruises or mold. Avoid pears that are punctured or have dark soft spots.
When trying to determine whether a pear is ripe, don’t squeeze the whole fruit, the best way is to gently press only at the top of the pear, near its stem. If that spot gives in to pressure, the pear is probably optimally ripe for eating. If the flesh feels extremely soft, almost to the point of being squishy, the pear is overripe.
If you are not consuming the pears immediately once they have ripened, you can place them in the refrigerator where they will remain fresh for a few days. Remember to store pears away from strong-smelling foods as they tend to absorb odors. If you want to hasten the ripening process, place them in a paper bag, turning them occasionally, and keep them at room temperature. Placing them in plastic bags is not recommended.
TIPS FOR PREPARING AND EATING
Fresh pears are delicious eaten raw after gently washing the skin by running it under cool water and patting it dry. Since their skin provides about half of the pear’s total dietary fiber as well as its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients, it is best to not peel the fruit but eat the entire pear. To cut the pear into pieces, you can use an apple corer, cutting from the fruit’s base to remove the core, and then cutting it into the desired sizes and shapes. Once cut, pears will oxidize quickly and turn a brownish color. You can help to prevent this by applying several drops of lemon, lime or orange juice to the flesh.
Use this delicious and healthy fruit in salads and in juices and remember to always choose ORGANIC whenever possible.