“It is in my view, the duty of an apple to be crisp and crunchable, but a pear should have such a texture as leads to quiet consumption,” poetic words for a common fruit. Thanks, Edward Bunyard for penning this description in “The Anatomy of Dessert.”
The Pacific Northwest is a haven of orchards dressed in a plethora of pears just ripe for the picking. Backyards and roadsides are dotted with the sweet gems that hold the distinction of being Oregon’s state fruit. Speaking of further honors, 84% of our country’s pear crop is grown in Oregon and Washington. The volcanic soil, clean water, warm summers with cooler nights means a spot-on recipe for delectable fruit.
There are over 3,000 types of pears, with a smattering of heirlooms being cultivated for mass distribution; each having distinct characteristics. A handful of choices include:
Anjou – both green and red, with a sweet, juicy, slight citrus essence
Bartlett – the quintessential pear flavor, juicy, sweet and it turns yellow as it ripens
Red Bartlett – floral and juicy, brilliant red color
Bosc – earthy, honey-flavor, the texture is smooth and it lends itself to baking
Comice – uber sweet and buttery, pairs well with pungent cheese
An interesting tip about pears: unlike most fruits, they ripen better off of the tree. The process is quite simple, set them on the counter at room temperature or tuck them in a paper bag which hurries the matter along. Pears are ripe and ready for quiet consumption when their neck gives to slight pressure.
Having picked a peck of pears, what do you do? Chopped pears are a welcome toss-in for oatmeal or any quick bread recipe. Classic cottage cheese and pears has been showing up on dining tables for a long time, a trendier riff is fresh pears with fennel and shavings of parmesan. How about a play on grilled cheese? Top rustic bread with Havarti and sliced pears. Toast until bubbly then add a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Side dish options? Entice your palate with a savory sauté of sweet onions and pears:
Pear and Sweet Onion Compote
- 1 large sweet onion such as Walla Walla or Maui
- 4 pears (Bartlett or Anjou are good choices)
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Heat a heavy bottomed skillet over medium heat. Drizzle with olive oil.
- Thinly slice onions and add to pan, cook until soft and translucent. Toss in minced garlic and thyme to toast.
- Slice pears in ¼” slivers and add to the skillet. Reduce heat to low. Cook for about 15, until onions have a slight golden color and pears are soft and sweet.
- Taste for salt and pepper.
Serve alongside roasted pork; pile on a chicken sandwich or as a topper for grilled brats.