Move over apples – you’re not the only fruit to shine this time of year. Fall is also primetime for the humble pear, which may be one of the most underrated fruits in the world. Even though often underrated and underestimated, this pome fruit is also one of the world’s oldest cultivated and beloved produce in the history of food.
Dubbed as a “gift of the gods” by the Greek poet laureate Homer and often used in works of Renaissance Masters in elegant still-life paintings, pears – specifically pear trees – were immortalized in the 18th-century Christmas carol, The Twelve Days of Christmas.
Pear trees were brought by early colonists to the east coast of the United States but they eventually found their way to the western regions of Oregon and Washington by pioneers in the 1800’s where they have thrived ever since. Today, there are more than 1,600 pear growers in Oregon and Washington with pears being Oregon’s number one tree fruit crop and is the official state fruit. The combined annual fresh pear harvest for Washington and Oregon averages over 582,000 tons with both states combined exporting about 35% of their fresh pear crop to more than 50 countries worldwide.
Here are a few varieties pears can be found in:
· Anjous – These are winter pears with green or red skins.
· Bartlett – These are a favorite having a soft, exceptionally juicy flesh with a light green and reddish skin.
· Bosc – This is also a winter variety with a yellowish-brown skin encasing a creamy white flesh.
· Seckel – These pears are small and round with a champagne-like flavored flesh and a grainy texture.
The modest pear packs a trove of health benefits many of us may not realize. Pears don’t have the flashy reputation of some foods such as kale or quinoa, but don’t take them for granted. This fruit is brimming with healthy nutrients each of us can use benefitting our health.
Pears provide the following health benefits:
· Pears are one of the highest fiber fruits containing up to 6 grams per medium-sized fruit. Each day we need 25 to 30 grams of fiber and what better way to achieve that then by eating pears. Fibers keeps prevents constipation promoting bowel regularity and may help prevent colon cancer. High fiber diets can also reduce cholesterol and has been linked to reduction of breast cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes
· A type of soluble fiber found in pears is pectin. Pectin may help improve digestion, lower cholesterol levels, stabilize blood sugar and may also help prevent cancer.
· Pears can be a good source of the vitamins C, K, B2, B3, and B6. The mineral potassium is found in pears which provide 250 milligrams per serving.
· The mineral boron which helps our body retain calcium making bones strong is found in pears. Boron works along with vitamin D to reduce the amount of calcium and magnesium excreted in the urine.
· There are a variety of phytochemicals and antioxidants pears contain which include flavonols, hydroxyquinones, anthocyanins, and cyanidin. All help improve immune functioning and promoting overall health.
· Be sure and always eat the skin of a pear as this is where the antioxidant quercetin is found. Quercetin is beneficial for cancer prevention and may help reduce blood pressure.
· Pears are a hypoallergenic fruit meaning those with food sensitivities can usually eat pears with no side effects.