by Bree West
Pears are related to the apple and are about the same size, but usually have a large, round bottom that tapers and gets smaller and narrower at the top. There are many different varieties of pears that differ in size, color, shape, and texture, and they can range in color from yellow, green, brown, and red to a combination of these colors. The meat of the pear is white or cream colored and is sweet and juicy, with a texture that is slightly grainy. Pears also have a core in the center that contains seeds. The most common varieties include the Anjou, Bartlett, Bosc, and Comice pears.
They go as far back as the Stone Age. Later, pears were highly regarded by the Greeks who referred to the fruit as a “gift of the gods.” The Romans shared this sentiment regarding pears, and they used grafting methods to create more than fifty varieties of pears. Pears remained highly regarded for a long period of time, and were considered to be a luxury food by Louis XIV. The first pear tree to be planted in America was in the year 1620 and was brought to the States by the colonists. Missionaries took the fruit to California in the 1700s where they became popular. Today the world’s supply of pears comes mainly from Italy, the United States, and China.
This fruit is a particularly good source of water-soluble fibers—meaning the fiber dissolves and forms a gel-like substance— including pectin. And though apples are usually noted for their high pectin content, pears are actually higher in pectin. Because of this, pears make a great cholesterol-lowering food. The pectin in pears also helps tone the intestines and keep elimination regular.
Pears are also one of the highest fruit sources of lignin, an insoluble fiber that helps to transport cholesterol out of the body. Lignan traps cholesterol in the intestine before it can get absorbed into the bloodstream. Because lignan cannot pass through the intestinal wall, it goes to the stool and is eliminated, taking the cholesterol with it. The insoluble fiber in pears does not dissolve or break down in the intestines, but instead absorbs water. This makes the stools softer and more easily and quickly passed through the intestines which helps to prevent constipation and hemorrhoids and also helps to decrease the risk of developing colon cancer. A single pear has about four grams of fiber, more than a serving of bran. Most of the fiber in pears, however, is contained in the skin, so peeling pears removes much of its fiber and the associated benefits. Along with this, it is important to get fresh pears, and not canned or other forms of processed pears. These sources of pears are high in sugar and have much of the nutrient content missing.
They’re a good source of the mineral boron. Boron is an important mineral for keeping our bones strong. It helps prevent postmenopausal women from losing calcium which is important because these women are at a much higher risk for osteoporosis, the disease caused by a gradual loss of minerals from the body and that leads to bone loss. Boron is essential for brain health; it helps maintain good memory, perception, mental alertness, and attention. Furthermore, it has been shown to help maintain healthy reflexes. A single pear provides about 0.3mg of boron, so eating pears and at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day will provide about 3mg of boron, all that your body needs.
Pears are often recommended by doctors as a hypoallergenic fruit, less likely to create any negative reactions than other fruits. Especially with babies, pears are often introduced first among the fruits as they are typically a safe place to start. They’re a good source of vitamins B2, C, and E, copper, boron, potassium, and fiber.
Pears are usually unripe when bought at the store, but will ripen well within a few days. As the pear ripens the color of the skin changes as well, with the color changes depending on the variety of the pear. Fresh pears are best when they yield slightly to pressure. Unripe pears should be kept stored at room temperature, and if you want them to ripen more quickly, put them in a paper bag and turn them over occasionally. Once the pear is ripe, it should be kept in the fridge where it will stay fresh longer. It is important to know that pears should be stored away from strong smelling foods because they tend to absorb odors. They’re also often heavily sprayed with pesticides and other such chemicals, so they’re one of the items of produce that is best purchased organic.
Raw Spiced Pear Cobbler Recipe
- 1 ½ pounds (5-6 cups) of pears*, cored and cut into 1” chunks
- 2 tablespoons agave nectar (vegan) or raw honey (non-vegan) or maple syrup (not a raw sweetener but delicious!)
- ½ teaspoon lemon zest
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
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