Monday, February 14, 2011

Pears: Asian, Korean, Ya, Fragrant, Bartlett, Red Bartlett, Comice, D'Anjou, Red D'Anjou & Bosc

I've recently noticed quite a few varieties of pears in stores. I decided to purchase a number of each kind so that I could compare and contrast them. It has been fun and illuminating. The differences between varieties can be dramatic. After trying about ten different varieties, there does seem to me to be two categories that separate the pears. One category I call the crispy pears, which include the Asian, Korean, Ya and Fragrant pears. The other category I call the mushy pears, which include the Comice, Bosc, D'Anjou and Bartlett pears. The mushy pears are more flavorful than the crispy pears, but the crispy pears have a nicer texture and a juiciness that is very refreshing. 

Asian or Nashi Pear:   I had my first Asian pear about six or seven years ago when a member of the San Bernardino County Bar Association board brought me one from a tree in her yard. 
I'd never heard of an Asian pear previous to that. It looked kind of like an apple, but with a brownish/yellowish skin. 
It was amazingly crispy, and very, very juicy. In fact, I found that I either needed to eat it with a napkin, or over a sink, as the juice from the pear was so significant it would drip from the partially eaten pear. The taste is a cross between an apple and a pear, but not as strong as either. The real enjoyment is not so much the taste, but the crispness and the juiciness. 
I enjoyed it so much that we planted an Asian pear tree in our yard a while later, the water source to it malfunctioned and it did not survive. 1001 Foods You Must Eat Before You Die includes the nashi or Asian pear on the list and says they come in a variety of colors, shapes and sizes. 
Unlike Western pears that must be picked while underripe, Asian pears ripen on the tree and remain firm for weeks. They can be eaten right after picking.Although I have pictures of an Asian pear that is peeled, I generally eat them like an apple, without peeling them. Judy just brought home a package of California grown Asian pears called "apple pears" which seems to be a perfect name for the Asian pear.
Korean Pear:   I purchased a Korean pear from a Korean market in Los Angeles recently. 
Aside from being a slightly lighter color than the Asian pears I normally see, 
it seemed the same in the essential characteristics of taste, texture and juiciness. From reading I have done, it appears that there is little or no difference between Asian and Korean pears. 
Ya Pear:   The ya pear is also known as the yali pear, ya li pear and Chinese white pear and is native to northern China. 
It is claimed that the taste is a cross between a rose and a pineapple, but we found it not to be as sweet or as juicy as other crisp pears. 
Judy said that the taste did nothing for her and it was probably my least favorite of all the pears. Judy found a different brand of ya pears
and brought them home and we had the same experience. 
I also read literature that confirmed it. 
They are not as sweet or as juicy as other crispy pears and are probably my least favorite of all the pears. 
Fragrant Pear:   I purchased some fragrant pears from a Thai market in Los Angeles. 
They are grown in the Xinjiang region of Western China where they have been cultivated for over 1,300 years. 
They have just recently been introduced into the U.S. The name comes from its "floral scent" and even I, with a horrible nose, can appreciate the nice fragrance. 
One produce supplier states that they have been, "Revered by the Chinese for centuries as the finest pear of all varieties." They are smaller than any of the other crispy pears I have tried. It does have a very nice sweet taste, the most sweet of any of the crispy pears, and is my favorite of the crispy pear varieties.
Comice Pear:   The other pear listed in 1001 is the Comice pear which looks quite similar to the Bartlett pear, the pear I am most familiar with. 
It was developed in France in about 1849 and is very popular in Europe. 
It has thin, greenish yellow skin, sometimes with a rosy blush. It bruises easily, but the bruising does not mar the taste. It must be used when perfectly ripe. 
When under-ripe, it is hard and when over-ripe, it is mushy. It is used in cooking because it retains its taste and shape when cooked.
1001 says that the flavor is "ratafia-almond" and a buttery texture. I found that it bruised more than all of the other pears. It did not soften up as much as the Bartlett or D'Anjou, but it was easier to peel. Only the Bosc peeled more easily. They get woody or pithy spots that have to be cut out, similar to those found in a potato. I found the texture more woody than buttery, and I believe the ones I ate were perfectly ripe. They have a delicate taste, kind of mellow, not deep, and not real sweet. It was less sweet than the Bartlett, D'Anjou and Bosc and a little more mushy than the Bosc. It was probably my least favorite of the mushy pears. I usually eat a half cup of whole boiled wheat for breakfast with yogurt. As part of my taste test, I added pear to the mixture which was very good. 
I am finding a description that says they are among the "sweetest and juiciest of all varieties of pears, and are a favorite in holiday gift boxes and baskets...For many pear lovers, Comice is the pinnacle variety of pears." The person who wrote the description had different pears than I did, but I may have to try and find more and see if the ones I ate were not fully ripe. Although you can see from the pictures, the ones I ate looked plenty ripe. 

Bosc Pear:   Bosc pears are very distinctive in their elongated neck, 
full rounded base and brown russeted skin. 
There is something about the brown skin, perhaps the similarity to a potato, that makes them seem less juicy and appetizing. 
They tend to be harder than the other mushy pears and are the easiest to peel. 
They tend to be a little crunchier than the other mushy pears, but are quite sweet. I prefer them, taste-wise, to all of the pears other than the Bartlett and D'Anjou. 
Bartlett Pear:   The Bartlett pear is known as the Williams' Bon Chretien ("Williams' good Christian") pear in England. 
Some trees were imported to the U.S. and Enoch Bartlett, not knowing the origin, named the pears after himself and introduced them to the U.S. 
It wasn't until years later that Bartlett and Williams pears were determined to be the same variety. By that time they were so popular in the U.S. that they are still generally known in the U.S. and Canada as Bartlett pears.
 The fruit has a bell shape and is considered the traditional shape of a pear and the "pear flavor" in the West. 
Its green skin turns yellow when ripe. They are the usual choice for canned pear halves and were 80% of U.S. pear production in 1985. In 2004, they dropped to 50% of U.S. pear production, due to the growth of the market for d'Anjou and Bosc pears. 
The Bartlett is the second sweetest pear after the D'Anjou. It seemed to get a little more soft and mushy than the other pears, thus a little more difficult to peel, and has a very distinctive deep taste, almost a tinge of woodiness to it. The skin tends to turn ugly with black marks, although not as bad as the Comice. 


Red Bartlett Pear:   The red pear or red Bartlett is very similar to the Bartlett, 
other than that it ripens to a reddish color rather than a yellow color. 
When I purchased the red pears 
and had not read up on them, I knew it was a form of Bartlett immediately upon eating it. 
It had the very sweet, deep, semi-woody taste. 
D'Anjou Pear:   The D'Anjou or green Anjou, 
also called the Beurre d'Anjou, has more of an egg shape and a skin color that is bright green,
 sometimes with a red blush. 
The skin color changes very little when ripening. 
D'Anjou pears are used for the juicy pear flavor of jelly beans for Jelly Belly's. 
In 2004 they were 34% of U.S. pear production and Oregon is the primary pear producing state. I found the D'Anjous to be the sweetest of the pears by far, and they did not have the deep woody taste that the Bartlett's have. For pure taste, the D'Anjou pear is my first choice. 
Red D'Anjou Pear:   Red D'Anjou or red Anjou pears are very similar to green Anjous 
other than the color. They have a very deep red color and really stand out. 
Like the green Anjou they are difficult to determine when ripe. 
The best indicator of ripeness is a softness near the stem when ripe.
 Because of the beautiful color and great taste, these are perhaps my very favorite of all the pears. 

4 comments:

  1. Great effort, Bob. It's good to see an evaluation of pears bought from the market: they are an underrated fruit.

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  2. of all the domestic pears I prefer the Orient which is a old variety, very juicy Sweet and crunchy.

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  3. Thank you, that was very helpful! I'm looking into making korean barbeque sauce (bulgogi) that uses pear juice. Wondering if the original recipe uses Asian pear? Do you happen to know?

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  4. nice idea..thanks for sharing....

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