New Crop Pears
As outstanding as pears are, they constantly live under the shadow of apples - a very difficult market to compete with. Apples seem to be easier to understand. We typically are not concerned about any level of ripeness with apples - just how crisp they are and whether they are sweet or tart. Pears on the other hand do ripen, and as a result they tend to present a much more complex and complicated scenario to the shopper. It becomes more challenging to find a pear that is immediately ready to eat - one that is not too firm, but not too mealy. The key to promoting this delicious fruit is to sample them at the pinnacle of their ripening process. And, the key to sampling then becomes understanding exactly how pears ripen.
Because pears do come of age, there is the challenge of knowing exactly the point at which they are peaking in flavor. Eat one before it is ripe and they are crunchy, but with very little flavor. Eat one past its peak, and the mushy texture is difficult to overcome. Timing is everything when selecting a pear, and in order to have a successful pear season, it is critical that we can enlighten our customers as to when that "perfect moment" in the life of any particular pear variety has come to fruition.
The key to selecting a perfectly ripe pear is to understand that as they ripen this process is happening from the inside out. What this means is that a pear will always be riper on the inside than it appears on the outside. Most people select their pears when they appear perfectly ripe based on exterior hints such as color change, softness, and smell. While these hints may initially appear very helpful to the shopper, they can in fact be a bit misleading. By the time these symptoms of ripeness have made their way to the external appearance of the fruit, the interior of the pear is already further along in the ripening process. Typically, when a pear seems perfectly ripe based on exterior symptoms, the inside of the pear is already past its peak and will often have a mushy texture with a slightly fermented flavor.
When a pear is perfectly ready to eat, all the symptoms are going on inside the fruit, and what we typically look for as indicators of ripeness on the exterior may not be apparent. The best way to trust in the ripeness of a pear is to look to the stem end of the fruit. When this end yields slightly to gentle pressure the pear is ripe and ready to eat. At this point the pear may not seem ripe by traditional standards, but trusting "the stem end method" should yield some very tasty results. Even though the exterior of the fruit appears to be saying "wait a few more days", the inside of the fruit is screaming "I'm ready now!"
When the first of the new crop pears arrive at your store this season, try testing a few at this stage and check the results for yourself. Sampling any item in your produce department should bring a boon to the sales of that particular item. Sampling them at the perfect time of ripeness should do even better. So much of our work in produce is to simply understand and enjoy the exquisite timing that nature has embedded into the food we eat.