By Stacy Brooks, Tangled Up In Food
There are certain foods that are often associated with fall, like apples, pumpkin pie, and butternut squash. But there’s something missing from that list—pears from the Northwest!
There are ten different varieties of pears that come from the Northwest, with a range of textures and flavor profiles, including juicy, sweet Bartletts; crisp, woodsy Boscs; and bite-sized, extra-sweet Seckels. Whatever variety you buy, one of the most important things to keep in mind when enjoying pears is that they don’t ripen on tree. Like peaches and bananas, pears should be allowed to ripen at room temperature for the best flavor and texture. Wondering how to tell if your pear is ripe? Check the neck! Gently press the neck, or stem end, of the pear with your thumb. If it yields slightly, your pear is ready to eat.
True story: until I learned about “check the neck”, I spent years eating pears straight from the grocery store before they were ripe. Since I’ve started letting them ripen on my kitchen counter, it’s like eating a totally different fruit—besides being sweeter, the pears also have a richer, more complex flavor.
Not only are they in season right now, pears are actually the perfect fruit for fall. Read on to learn more!
1) Pears are a portable and healthy snack
Since they’re easy to pack in a backpack or purse and eat on the go, pears are a great way to get more fruit in your diet. U.S. dietary guidelines recommend two cups of fruit per day—eating one pear gets you halfway there! In addition, pears are high in fiber and are a source of vitamin C (10% of the daily value) and potassium.
To protect your ripe pear from getting squished in your bag, you can keep it in a reusable pear packer.
2) Pears pair nicely with other fall produce
Besides being tasty in their own right, pears pair well with other fall produce like squash and apples. Pears can add a hint of sweetness to squash soup, and roasted pears and squash make for a great fall side dish. Fresh sliced pears are delicious in a salad with roasted squash—I’ve included a recipe below for a Roasted Squash and Pear Salad with Maple Vinaigrette (there’s additional recipe information and a printable version here).
Pears also pair well with apples in desserts like pies and crisps, and you can create a seasonal cheese plate with fresh apple and pear slices.
3) Pears play well with fall flavors
It’s not an accident that the salad pictured above features a maple vinaigrette—pears are delicious with fall flavors including maple and warming spices like cinnamon, ginger, and cardamom. Besides maple vinaigrette on a pear salad, you can drizzle maple syrup on roasted pears, sprinkle cinnamon a fresh sliced pear, or flavor baked pears with cardamom.
4) Pears are excellent in fall desserts
In addition to eating them fresh and using roasted pears in savory dishes, pears are a tasty ingredient for fall desserts. Wondering where to start? Try baking a pear pie, pear crisp, or pear cake—or substitute pears for apples in your favorite fall treat (I’m planning to bake a pear streusel with my great-grandma’s recipe).
5) Pears are something to look forward to
Fall is a bittersweet season for many of us: the days are getting darker, the temperatures are getting colder, and local produce options are getting sparser (especially here in the Minnesota). But just as the weather is becoming dreary, the pear season is ramping up. Depending on the variety, the pear season runs from mid-winter to spring—so there are months of enjoying delicious pears ahead!
With roasted squash, fresh pears, blue cheese, and a tangy vinaigrette, this salad is the perfect balance of flavors for fall.
Recipe: Roasted Squash and Pear Salad with Maple Vinaigrette
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut a delicata squash in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. Cut squash into 1/2 inch thick slices, brush with 2 teaspoons of olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast until tender, about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, whisk together 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon maple syrup, and a dash of salt.
Divide 4 cups of spring mix between two plates. Top with roasted squash, a thinly sliced Bosc pear, and 1/4 cup blue cheese crumbles. Drizzle with prepared vinaigrette.
Additional recipe information and a link to a printable version available here.