When is the right time to buy pears for different uses, like for poaching, eating or roasting? And which ones have real flavor?
-Lucas from Des Moines
Simply pressing the right spot reveals all. Since pears ripen from the inside out -- and they can do this after picking -- the way to tell ripeness is by gently pressing the top of the pear right next to the stem. A slight "give" means the pear is partially ripe. This is the pear for roasting, baking and poaching.
When that same spot yields to pressure but doesn't feel mushy, the pear is ripe and ready for eating out of hand and to be pureed into dishes.
If a pear smells aromatic, sweet and appealing, that is how it will taste. With the heirloom trend, a lot of new (at least to us) pears are showing up in markets, but what you will always find is the standard quartet. (Within each of these categories there are numerous types with often dramatic flavor differences -- try them as you find them.) Generally it is worth seeking out organic pears for superior flavor.
The Pear Quartet
A simple way to show off a brilliant pear find is in Granita of Fresh Pear with Candied Pineapple. Lush Comice are my first choice for the granita, followed by Anjou and Bartlett.
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Lynne Rossetto Kasper has won numerous awards as host of The Splendid Table, including two James Beard Foundation Awards (1998, 2008) for Best National Radio Show on Food, five Clarion Awards (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2014) from Women in Communication, and a Gracie Allen Award in 2000 for Best Syndicated Talk Show.