One of the sweetest gifts of the gods, friends or the grocer… pears!

Printed with permission of the Alpine Avalanche

Not too long ago, I bought Bosc pears at the grocery store. I got home and cut into one, and it was nearly hard as a rock compared to the pears I was accustomed to eating. Last fall, our friends Lani and Dusty Rhodes gave us several boxes of the sweetest and most fragrant pears I’d ever tasted or smelled.

One Asian Pear tree in their yard produced more pears than they could eat or give away. These pears looked like small apples but tasted almost like melon with hints of vanilla, and were so sweet and juicy that I’ve yet to find any pear that matches in flavor.

A box of Asian pears from my friends Dusty and Lani.One of the boxes of Asian pears we were gifted by neighbors.

One of the larger Asian pears.

Records indicate that pears were cultivated about 5000 years ago in China, where they believed pears were a sign of immortality. In Greek and Roman mythology, pears are sacred to three goddesses: Hera (Juno to the Romans), Aphrodite (Venus to the Romans) and Pomona, an Italian goddess of gardens and harvests.

About 800 years ago, pears were called “a gift of the gods” in Homer’s The Odyessy. Thanks to the fiber, potassium, vitamin C and antioxidants found in pears, pears are also a gift for good nutrition. A medium-sized pear has 6 grams of fiber – 22 percent of the daily recommended amount for us, and this fiber has been shown to help lower “bad” cholesterol levels, and also aid in weight loss. Twelve percent of the daily recommended value of vitamin C is in each medium pear. I could go on and on about the health benefits of pears but I won’t… just be sure and eat the skin of the pear as that is where most of the nutrients are.

Bosc pears, with their bronze color and russet skin, were said to have been discovered in Europe in the early 1800s and were brought to the United States in 1833. They are named after M. Bosc, the founder of the Paris Botanical Garden. Bosc pears grow very well in Washington State, where they can be found in the river valleys. Harvested from September through early March, they are one of the best pears for baking in crisps, tarts and pies because they stand up to the heat of cooking without turning to mush.

Bosc pears on my cutting board…
Bosc pears, ready for chopping.

There are more than 5,000 varieties of pear trees out there, and I’ve found my two favorites. Since each pear tree can produce fruit for up to 100 years, I’m looking forward to many more Asian pears in the future.

After cutting into that hard Bosc pear, a quick internet search revealed my new favorite recipe for pears if I’m not eating them raw – caramelized pears. I can’t even explain the deliciousness of caramelized pears. Caramelizing is a cooking method that converts the starches in foods to sugar, which produces a deep, rich caramel sauce around the pieces of fruit. You can caramelize any firm fruit, but steer clear of berries because they are too soft. I like serving our warm caramelized pears over cold vanilla gelato.

Bosc pears in my favorite cast iron skillet, caramelizing with butter and sugar…
Caramelizing pears in my favorite cast iron skillet.

And the finished product… Caramelized Pears with Vanilla Gelato.
See the buttery caramel drizzled on the gelato? Yeah, life is complete.

Caramelized Bosc pears with vanilla gelato.

Caramelized Pears
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/2 stick)
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
4 medium Bosc pears, cored and cut into large dice (about 4 cups)
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves (optional – I didn’t use them)

Melt butter in a medium frying pan over medium heat. When it foams, sprinkle sugar over top and cook until bubbling and dissolved, about 3 minutes. Add pears and cook, stirring rarely, until mixture is caramelized and pears just begin to release their juices. Gently fold in cloves and serve.


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