Q: What gives a pear its unique melting texture?
While the cold weather is having an adverse reaction on many fruit and veg lines, apples and pears are a reliable addition to the menu with quality consistent and stock readily available. With harvesting taking place between Jan-May each year, apple and pear varieties have been relatively unaffected by recent weather and therefore will be both good quality and in steady supply over the coming months.
Having recently discussed apple varieties, the bulletin this week explores the pear varieties currently available in Australia. While often overlooked, pears are still a key player in the horticulture industry and are growing in popularity. In fact, Australian pear production increased by 30% last year taking it to more than 123,000 tonnes. While Victoria still accounts for the majority of Australia’s production at 88%, our local farmers are upping the ante with NSW increasing production by 63% in 2010/2011.
The secret to enjoying pears is knowing which pear to eat when. A pear eaten too early is an opportunity missed, as it has not yet had a chance to develop its full flavour and the unique, buttery texture. As stated by Edward Bunyard, author of The Anatomy of Dessert, “The pear must be approached, as its feminine nature indicates, with discretion and reverence; it withholds its secrets from the merely hungry.” So with a little reverence, here’s our guide to getting the most of winter pears:
Selection: Look for fairly firm, fragrant fruit that is unblemished.
Storage: Store firm, unripe fruit at room temperature until it changes to a ripe yellow and/or gives a little when pressed at the stem. Once ripe, keep in refrigerator and use quickly.
Preparation: Handle gently, pears bruise easily. Once cut, brush surfaces with citrus juice to prevent discolouration prior to serving
Available: Mar – Oct, best Apr – May
Appearance: med to largepear with an elongated neck, green-brown skin and a golden-brown russet that darkens as it ripens
Flesh: juicy, white flesh
Flavour: aromatic, sweet, buttery and juicy
Best use: great all-rounder. Suitable for most cooking methods and lovely fresh. Often used for poaching
CORELLA: aka Forelle Pears
Available: April – end August
Appearance: squat with a bright, glossy pink-red blush on green – yellow base
Flesh: tender, soft white to creamy yellow flesh
Flavour: sweet and juicy
Best use: fresh – striking addition to salads
Watch for: sometimes smaller fruit is sold as baby corellas, these retain the unique flavour and are practical for salads and portion control
HONEY: aka Winter Nelis, Quall
Available: Mar – Nov
Appearance: small – medium in size, squat, round pears with green, heavily russetted skin that yellows when ripe
Flesh: creamy white
Flavour: tender, sweet, buttery– very juicy and aromatic
Best use: very versatile- good cooked and fresh
JOSEPHINE: aka Josephine de Malines
Available: Apr –Aug
Appearance: medium sized fruit withlight-green soft skin and slight russet
Flesh: fine grained, creamy yellow-white
Flavour: rich, juicy and very sweet
Best use: excellent fresh eating variety
Available: Mar – Nov (best May – Aug)
Appearance: medium, round fruit with yellow-green slightly rough skin (can be flecked with white or brown depending on variety)
Flesh: creamy white, crisp and juicy flesh (like an apple)
Flavour: subtly sweet with medium sugar and high acid
Best use: its crisp texture makes it an interesting apple substitute for a variety of dishes (salads, cheese platters) or eaten fresh
PACKHAM: aka Packhams Triumph
Available: Mar – Dec (best- May-Jun)
Appearance: med – large green pear (turns golden yellow when ripe) with a short neck (skin can sometimes appear bumpy)
Flesh: white and slightly firm yet juicy
Flavour: juicy and sweet
Best use: great baked in desserts, poached or fresh
RED D’ANJOU: aka Red Angou
Available: Apr – Nov
Appearance: medium sized, deep red fruit with yellow-green mottling
Flesh: fine, white flesh
Best use: salads
A: It is the unique texture of the pear that sets it apart from its popular pome brethren. From harvest to consumption the quality of a pear is reliant on knowing when to act. If allowed to stay on the tree too long, the pear develops a gritty, coarse texture as it ripens. To avoid this, farmers pick their pears when mature (but not ripe) and then hold them in cold storage (a key step in achieving their unique character) before they hit the markets and begin to ripen naturally. As pears ripen from the inside it can be difficult to gauge when to indulge, but it is worth the wait. If you press the point where the stem meets the neck and if it gives evenly without applying proper pressure – then the pear is ready to melt in your mouth.