For the Health of It: Try popular fresh pears this winter
Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables can be the foundation for a healthy lifestyle, but unless they make a trip around the world, many fruits are out of season during winter. What a delight it is to find fresh pears available in our food markets this time of year.
“Pears are one of the most popular fruits in the world, and offer a sweet, juicy, nutrition-packed healthy snack,” says Dr. Pam Duitsman, nutrition and health specialist, University of Missouri Extension.
A medium pear only contains about 100 calories, is a good source of dietary fiber, vitamin C. A pear is of course sodium free, fat free, and cholesterol free.
“Pears are considered an excellent source of many healthful phytonutrients, and rank high among fruits and vegetables as sources of flavonols, which research shows have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties,” says Duitsman. Flavonols are associated with lower risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and some types of cancer.
When selecting a pear at the store, choose only those that are unmarked and unbruised. Give the pear a sniff. Ripe pears will be fragrant and give slightly when thumb pressure is placed at the top of the pear, near its stem.
“If the flesh is too soft, the pear may be overripe. Don’t use color as a gauge for ripeness,” says Duitsman. “Pears come in many varieties and colors, including many different shades of green, red, yellow, gold, and brown. Many 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 at the market will often be unripe and will require some special attention.
“You can place them in the refrigerator for a few days to ripen, or to speed ripening, place in a paper lunch bag at room temperature for two or three days until ripe. Try to ensure the pears are not touching each other, which will cause rotting,” said Duitsman.
According to Duitsman, you can then store unwashed and ripe pears in a resealable plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to three days. Pears are tasty whether cooked or eaten raw, with or without the skin. If using for baking, choose pears that are fairly firm.
There are many different ways to add more fruit, and specifically pears, to your plate this winter. Duitsman recommends adding diced pears to oatmeal or cereal, serving pear slices with a favorite cheese, adding pear slices to sandwiches or quesadillas, eating them fresh with yogurt and on salads, or poaching pears with vanilla bean and cinnamon for dessert.
For more information on nutrition contact one of the following nutrition specialists: Dr. Lydia Kaume in Barton County, (417) 682-3579 or Dr. Pam Duitsman, in Greene County, (417) 881-8909. Information is also available online http://extension.missouri.edu.
Recipe for poached pears
Poaching can give pears a more intense flavor, and allows a more favorable texture for some recipes. A simple way to poach pears. Serves four.
- 4 medium ripe firm pears, peeled, cored, and cut in half lengthwise
- 1 3/4 cups water
- 1/2 cup honey
Cook pears by combining water and honey in a large pan. (If you are serving poached pears, add a couple cinnamon sticks; if using poached pears in another dish, leave out the cinnamon sticks). Arrange pear halves, cut sides down, in a single layer and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook for 10 minutes or until tender, basting and turning frequently for an even color. Remove pears from pan.
The liquid left in the pan can be reduced down to 1/2 cup (just cook for about 20 minutes on medium heat) and poured over the pears after removing the cinnamon sticks.
Pears in red wine sauce
10fl ounces water
10fl ounces) fruity red wine (merlot is good)
6 ounces soft light-brown sugar
2 broad strips lemon rind (remove the white pith)
½ cinnamon stick
8 black peppercorns
4 fat pears, under-ripe
9 ounces ready-made puff pastry
½ ounce of butter
Granulated sugar for sprinkling
Put the water, wine and brown sugar into a pan large enough to hold all the pears. Heat gently, stirring occasionally to help the sugar dissolve. Add lemon rind, cinnamon and peppercorns.
Peel pears; halve, core and put into the saucepan. Bring mixture to the boil and then turn down to a very low simmer. Gently cook the pears, turning them over from time to time to make sure that every bit of them comes into contact with the wine. They should be tender but not falling apart. The more slowly you cook the pears the better – they take on the color of the wine that way. Remove pears and set them on to a plate in a single layer. Reduce cooking liquid until slightly syrupy (remember it will thicken as it cools). Leave syrup to cool.
Roll out puff pastry on a lightly floured surface and cut out rounds using a small saucer. Place on lightly floured baking-sheet. Take each pear half and make cuts from the top of the pear (the stalk end) to the bottom, so that you can fan them out.
Carefully put a pear half in the centre of each circle of pastry. Brush the rims with melted butter and sprinkle them with granulated sugar. Bake in an oven preheated over to 450°F for 8-10 minutes. Brush each pear half with the remaining red-wine syrup or serve with sauce on the side. Serve warm with ice-cream, whipped cream or crème fraîche.