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The most common variety is the Bartlett pear, which accounts for 65% or more of commercial production. It is also the principal pear for canning and the only variety sold dried. A ripening Bartlett turns from dark green to golden yellow, often with a rosy blush.

Abundant in winter, the Anjou pear is oval shaped. It is somewhat stubby, with smooth yellow-green skin and creamy flesh. Anjou may not taste as sweet as other varieties.

The Bosc pear is firm, almost crunchy, and has a long tapered neck with rough, reddish brown skin. It holds its shape well when cooked, so it is excellent for baking or poaching.

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Pears, like bananas, are seldom tree-ripened and are picked when they are mature, but still green and firm. As a pear ripens, the starch converts to sugar, and the fruit becomes sweeter, juicier, and softer. Timing is everything.

You can ripen a pear at room temperature, and then refrigerate it for no longer than a day or two before eating it. Or you can refrigerate the pear first, if you want. In this case, remove the pear from the refrigerator several days before you plan to eat it, and let it ripen at room temperature. The cold will slow, but not stop, the ripening process. And remember, don't store pears in sealed plastic bags - the lack of oxygen will cause the fruit to brown at the core.

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Origins and Culture

Pears are one of the ancient fruits, with a history that pre-dates Christianity by 2,000 years. Some of the earliest writings place the pears origin in China, and there are records of pear orchards in Greece in Homer's time. Homer aptly referred to the pear as a "Gift from the Gods." Pears are now grown in temperate regions worldwide, and around 5,000 varieties have been developed. Pears made their way to North America with the early colonists, and are now almost as popular as apples, to which they are related. Both are members of the rose family, both are pome fruits with their tell-tale vaulted, seeded core.

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Nutritional and Medicinal Properties

Pears are a good source of dietary fiber, vitamin C and copper. Treat your tastebuds to a delectable, juicy pear, and you'll be treating your body to 11.1% of the daily value for vitamin C along with 9.5% of the daily value for copper.

Although not well documented in scientific research, pears are often recommended by healthcare practitioners as a hypoallergenic fruit that is less likely to produce an adverse response than other fruits. Particularly in the introduction of first fruits to infants, pear is often recommended as a safe way to start.

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Basic Cooking Instructions

Pears can be baked, grilled, poached or sauteed with cinnamon, cloves, ginger or curry powder to add a wonderful, unique flavor to a meal.

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