The many different varieties of pears commonly found in U.S. groceries all belong to the same category known as European Pear (Pyrus communis). These pears typically have a rounded body that tapers into a neck of various lengths.
Pears are found in a variety of colors, including many different shades of green, red, yellow/gold, and brown. Many varieties fail to change color as they ripen, making it more difficult to determine ripeness.
Since pears are very perishable once they are ripe, the pears you find at the market will generally be unripe and will require a few days of maturing. Look for pears that are firm, but not too hard. They should have a smooth skin that is free of bruises or mold. The color of good quality pears may not be uniform as some may feature russetting where there are brown-speckled patches on the skin; this is an acceptable characteristic and oftentimes reflects a more intense flavor. Avoid pears that are punctured or have dark soft spots.
Fresh pears are delicious eaten as is after gently washing the skin by running it under cool water and patting it dry. Since their skin provides about half of the pear’s total dietary fiber as well as its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients,, it is best to not peel the fruit but eat the entire pear. To cut the pear into pieces, you can use an apple corer, cutting from the fruit’s base to remove the core, and then cutting it into the desired sizes and shapes. Once cut, pears will oxidize quickly and turn a brownish color. You can help to prevent this by applying several drops of lemon, lime or orange juice to the flesh.
Pears are a concentrated source of phenolic phytonutrients, including hydroxybenzoic acids (chlorogenic acid, gentisic acid, syringic acid, and vanillic acid); hydroxycinnamic acids (coumaric acid, ferulic acid, and 5-caffeoylquinic acid); hydroxyquinones (arbutin), flavanols (catechin, epicatechin); flavonols (isorhamnetin, quercetin, kaempferol); anthocyanins (in red-skinned varieties, including Red Anjou, Red Bartlett, Comice, Seckel, and Starkrimson); and carotenoids (beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin). Pears are a very good source of dietary fiber and a good source of copper, vitamin C, and vitamin K.