When you think of a pear, you probably imagine one of three main varieties: Anjou, Bartlett or Bosc. Ranging from deep red to pale green to golden in color, these produce-department staples are all-purpose pears. Their firm texture is equally suited for eating fresh or cooked. Bartletts are particularly good for canning.
Some lesser-known varieties and their special uses include:
- Asian. These are sometimes called apple pears because of a rounded shape and crisp texture. Sweeter than Barletts, Anjous and other European varieties, they're favored for fresh desserts. Also, unlike European pears, Asian pears are picked ripe.
- Comice. Squat and rosy-gold, their softer, "creamy" flesh makes these better for eating fresh, rather than cooking. They're especially popular for pairing with cheese.
- Seckel. This pear's also called a sugar pear for its exceptional sweetness. That, along with their fit-in-the-palm-of-your-hand size, makes them just right for snacking.
Most pears are not fully ripe when you buy them. And except for Yellow Bartletts, which go from green to gold, they don't change color as they ripen. Instead, grocers advise: "Check the neck." If the area near the stem gives when lightly pressed, the pear is good to go. Otherwise, let it set a few days at room temperature, performing the "neck check" daily.
Our next entry waves the red, white and blue -- or red, green and black, if you prefer.