Best in season: Pears

Eating in season is good for you, good for your wallet and good for the planet!

Familiarising yourself with what’s in season is also a subtle and satisfying way of reconnecting with nature, especially if you live in a town or city. Noticing the different produce on offer will give you a greater awareness of nature’s cycles—and an enhanced appreciation of fresh, whole, delicious food.

A classic autumnal fruit, pears are in season from September until January.

WHAT ARE THEY?

Like apples, pears are a member of the rose family. Most of the varieties available in supermarkets today are descendants of the European pear—a fruit that’s believed to have grown in the northern hemisphere for more than 3,000 years.

Popular varieties include Conference, Concorde and Red Williams. They typically have a wide, rounded body that tapers towards the stalk and, unlike many fruits, their skin doesn’t change colour as they ripen.

Today, three-quarters of the 21 million tonnes of pears enjoyed yearly are grown in China.

WHY SHOULD I EAT THEM?

Like many fruits and vegetables, pears have countless health-supporting qualities. Some of these include:

Rich in antioxidants. From flavanols to anthocyanins to carotenoids, pears are brimming with a variety of phytonutrients. Once ingested, these work in your body to counteract excess oxidative stress—a state that’s believed to underlie many chronic conditions, including heart disease [1].

Easy digestibility. Although there are no clinical trials to back this up, pears have long enjoyed a reputation for being hypoallergenic and easy to digest. In fact, pears are often allowed on the strictest elimination diets, and they’re frequently recommended as an early weaning food for babies.

Blood-sugar stabilising. Pears contain both soluble and insoluble fibre, which play a key role in slowing the absorption of sugar in to the blood. What’s more, the flavonols in pears (see above) have also been found to enhance insulin sensitivity [2].

WHAT SHOULD I LOOK FOR WHEN BUYING PEARS?

As mentioned, the skins of pears don’t change colour much—which can make it tricky to work out if they’re ripe or not.

Happily, there’s a technique! Rather than squeezing the whole fruit, pick a little spot just below the stem. It if gives in to pressure, it’s ripe for eating. However, it if feels remotely mushy, it’s probably past its best.

Pears have a very short shelf life, so most supermarkets sell them unripe. To speed up their ripening when they’re at home, pop them in a paper bag on the kitchen counter, and turn them over occasionally. They should be ready to eat in a couple of days.

Unfortunately, pears are frequently on the ‘Dirty Dozen’ list, which means they’re likely to be contaminated with pesticide. Buy organic fruits if you can.

HOW CAN I PREPARE THEM?

As well as being delicious raw, pears are surprisingly versatile. Try them in the following:

In a salad. For an easy side salad, slice half a pear and combine with a handful of rocket and a handful of walnuts. Top with squeeze of lemon juice and a good glug of extra virgin olive oil.

On a cheeseboard. You haven’t lived until you’ve tried pear with blue cheese! Forgo the crackers and serve pear rounds instead—they’re both sweeter and more nourishing.

In a crumble. Pears make a wonderful alternative to apples in this classic pudding. Chop 2–3 pears and place in an ovenproof dish. Combine oats with a little butter, sugar and flaked almonds, and sprinkle over the top. Roast at 180°C for 30 minutes—and then try not to eat it all!

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