The Chef’s Essential Pear Guide – Nutrition, Health Benefits & Best VarietiesAntonia Stroe
We have compiled a helpful guide on pears covering nutritional value, health benefits, seasonality, popular varieties, and which ones make for great pie filling!
How much do you know about seasonal pears? You might have tried Barlett, the signature sweet pear adored for its rich, juicy consistency, or the petite Forelle, whose crisp and tangy profile is perfect for seasonal cakes and bakes. But there are so many other different varieties worth experimenting with — and we’re about to show you how! 👨🍳
Pears’ Peak Season and Availability
The U.S. peak pear season depends on the region and variety. On average, pears are available from mid-summer through late autumn (August – October). Most of the national pear production comes from western states, with Washington and Oregon growing almost 90% of the fresh pears on the market.
According to Healthline, a medium-sized pear (approx. 180 grams) packs the following nutrients:
- 101 Calories
- Protein: 1 gram
- Carbs: 27 grams
- Fiber: 6 grams
- Vitamin C: 12% of the Daily Value (DV)
- Vitamin K: 6% of DV
- Potassium: 4% of the DV
- Copper: 16% of DV
- Smaller quantities of folate, provitamin A, and niacin
Now, what do these values actually imply in terms of health benefits?
- First, pears are rich in minerals like copper (important to bone health, immunity, cholesterol metabolism, and nerve function) and potassium (which supports normal cell, muscle, nerve, and heart function).
- They’re also an excellent source of antioxidants (primarily boasted in the peel!), which protect cells from free radicals, fight inflammation, and may reduce your overall risk of disease (including some types of cancer).
- The folate and niacin contained in lesser amounts greatly aid cellular function and energy production. At the same time, provitamin supports skin health and wound healing.
- Many other compounds naturally found in pears have been linked to better heart health, gut health, and anti-diabetic action.
Popular Pear Types
If you thought only apples were versatile, it might surprise you that the world knows some 3,000 different pear types. We will talk about the different kinds of pears we find on the U.S. market, but keep in mind that all varieties fall into two broad categories depending on their origin: Asian pears and European pears.
Asian vs. European Pear Varieties
According to Washington State University, European pears seemed to have arisen from Pyrus communis, native to Europe and Northern Asia. The fruit is small, hard, smooth-skinned, with a sour and astringent taste profile. Colors, shapes, and flavors can be quite different among European varieties. However, most come in your typical pear shape: an elongated neck that widens gradually into a rounded bottom.
On the other hand, pears native to Japan and China have developed from Pyrus pyrifolia, more commonly known as Asian pear. These Asian varieties closely resemble apples in shape and have a grittier texture. The skin comes in a uniform tan with yellow-green speckles.
Common U.S. Pear Varieties
In the United States, we have about ten commercially available varieties. Each has its peculiarities, flavor, and different recommended uses.
These are unique, apple-like shaped pear varieties indigenous to China!
In China, thousands of Pyrus pyrifolia varieties have been cultivated for over 4,000 years. Naturally, they have spread throughout other East Asian regions, most notably Japan (named nashi), Korea, and Taiwan. You’ll sometimes hear people call them “apple pears” due to their unusually round shape (at least if you’ve grown up eating common European varieties).
Another quality that separates Asian pears from common European varieties is their high moisture content and crisp, grainy consistency. Hence, they are not recommended for pies and jam but eaten raw, much like you would with a delicious apple.
Anjou (Green & Red)
An all-purpose pear. Both red and green varieties are juicy and sweet!
Introduced to America in the mid-19th century, the Beurré Anjou is a Belgian pear variety named after the French region of the same name. It’s a fall and winter egg-shaped pear, with all-purpose use owing to its firm consistency that holds up well in most recipes, including baking, poaching, grilling, and roasting. Harvest begins in early fall for both varieties, and they’re available through early summer.
The only significant difference between green and Red Anjou pears is precisely the color of the skin. Both types are refreshing, sweet, and juicy with subtle citrus or tangy notes. Remember that Green Anjou retains its green hue even as it fully ripens, while red Anjou is prized for its appetizing, deep red coat.
Bartlett (Yellow & Red)
Yellow and red Bartlett best embody a “true pear” shape and classical pear flavor!
One of the best-loved pear varieties in the U.S., Bartlett pears are in season from August through December. When fully ripe, they boast a classic pear sweetness and juiciness with buttery flesh, perfect for snacking, fruit salads, sauce, or canning (Bartletts are traditional canning pears!). When not quite ripe yet, all Bartlett pears are crunchier, tarter, and slightly grittier.
The skin of Yellow Bartlett turns from green to yellow as it ripens, while Red Bartlett goes from crimson to a bright, brilliant red at peak maturity.
This famous cinnamon pear of French origin is prized for its firm and crunchy consistency!
All-purpose varieties, Bosc pears are easily distinguished by their warm bronze, russeted skin. The flesh is crispy, woodsy, and honey-sweet with notes of nutmeg and cinnamon. Bosc pears reach the markets in September and are available through April. Their dense, firm flesh holds up well in baking (tarts, pies), broiling, glazing, or poaching.
Originally from France, Comice pears are thought to be among the sweetest pear varieties!
When you picture a large, light green-yellow pear with an appetizing red blush, a plump body, and a short yet defined neck, you’re thinking of Comice. The Doyenné du Comice, or simply Comice, has a history dating back to the 19th century and is generally available from September to February. Frequently included in Christmas time gift boxes, Comice has been nicknamed the “Christmas Pear.”
Comice bears a distinctive fruitiness and flavor. Its texture, too, is more delicate and not as grainy as other common pear varieties. Because of this, raw culinary applications are recommended for Comice pears since the sweet, juicy, and tender flesh may fall apart in bakes and other recipes.
Concorde pears are a joyful cross between Comice and Conference pears!
We’ve talked about Comice, but what’s with the Conference pear? This is a table pear variety common throughout Europe, dating back to late 19th-century England. Its elongated shape and russeted skin are not unlike that of a Bosc. Now cross it with a Comice, and you’ve got a Concorde!
Available from September through March, Concorde pears are crunchy when harvested but develop a smoother, velvety consistency at peak ripeness. Its taste is sweet with rich vanilla notes. Concorde pears have numerous culinary uses depending on their ripening stage, making them a real all-purpose pear. They’re great raw or roasted, grilled, poached, and sautéed, holding their shape and flavor well.
These deep red pears appeared as a spontaneous mutation in Missouri
Discovered in the early 1950s, Starkrimson pears present an exceptional deep crimson skin and a thick, sturdy stem. Due to its smooth consistency that nearly melts in the mouth, this pear variety is a pleasure too much on! The fruit bursts with a mild, sweet-tart flavor and floral aroma, making it excellent for fresh eating! Starkrimson pears are generally in season from August to November.
Due to their limited availability and shorter harvest times, Seckel pears and Forelle pears may be considered specialty varieties.
Small, speckled, and glazed with a lovely red flush, these are the perfect sweet snack!
The bell-shaped, symmetrical Forelle is one of the smallest pear varieties available on the U.S. market. It is distinguished by a greenish-yellow skin with the occasional red blush and numerous freckles. Actually, they have been named precisely for their unique speckled coloration, as Forelle is the German term for rainbow trout! This coloration changes slightly as the pair ripens, its green coating turning bright yellow.
The small size doesn’t make this pear variety ideal for cooking, but it has a number of great baking applications, like these Forelle Pears in Parchment. They’re an excellent raw snack due to their crisp texture and sweet, cinnamon-spiced profile. You will find this distinctive variety on the market from September through December.
Even smaller than Forelle, this sugary variety seems to be the sweetest, too!
Considered the sweetest variety by some, Seckel pears are truly bite-sized, crunchy, and packed full of sugary flavor! This adorable chubby pear has olive-green skin with a generous red-brown blush.
Due to their miniature size, Seckel pears have great raw applications: in lunch boxes, as plate garnish, snacks, or canned whole! The variety is in peak season for a shorter time, from September to February, with taste and quality peaking in December.
- Best Pears Eaten Raw: Asian Pears, Comice, Concorde, Forelle, Seckel, Starkrimson
- Best Pears for Salad: Asian Pears, Anjou, Bosc, Bartlett, Comice
- Best Pears for Baking: Concorde, Bosc Red, Red and Green D’Anjou, Bartlett
- Best Pears for Tart/Pie: Red and Green Anjou, Red and Green Bartlett, Bosc, Concorde, Forelle
- Best Pears for Canning: Bartlett and Seckel pears are particularly great for canning, but any variety goes as long as it’s fully ripe!
Where to Buy Delicious Pears
In the Tri-State Region, the pear season kicks off in late summer and lasts through fall as an abundance of varieties hit the local farmers’ market. We deliver pears at the same peak quality and freshness directly to your home or hospitality establishment!
Dine Market carries the following delicious pear varieties:
🍐 Asian Pears
🍐 Anjou Pears
🍐 Bosc Pears
🍐 Bartlett Pears