Valley Bounty: Pears

Human beings have been eating pears for a very, very long time; scientists have evidence of human beings eating pears as far back as the paleolithic era (10,000-50,000 years ago), and pear trees have been cultivated for food for at least as long as people have cared to write down what they grow. Today there are over 3,000 varieties of pear cultivated worldwide, but a few popular varieties you’re likely to encounter at your local farms’ market and farm stand include:

Bartlett—firm, green, and tart when first picked, this versatile pear will turn slightly yellow as it softens and sweetens with ripeness (pears ripen best off-tree). Bartlett’s are the traditional choice of pear for canning, but a ripe Bartlett is also a great snack raw.

Bosc—these have a brown exterior and long, often curved “necks” below the stem. Their firmer flesh makes them a great choice for baking, broiling, or poaching, as they retain their shape and texture better than other varieties.

Asian—brown or yellow with rough skin, these pears are round like apples rather than, well, pear-shaped. Asian pears are sweet, crisp, and juicy—so juicy that they are much better suited to eating raw than baking or poaching. Try them cut up in salads or sliced with cheddar or gouda.

Valley Bounty is written by Brian Snell of CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture)