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Pear perfection provides fiber for every season. (EN on Foods).

The Folklore: The perfect pear is said to be a work of art, and indeed this luscious sensually shaped fruit has been the subject of much artwork. Greek writings dating back to 300 B.C. are testament to the adulation pears have received. A particular favorite of Louis XIV in 17th-century France, the pear became so popular when brought to America that "pearmania" was said to grip New England by the 19th century.

The Facts: The pear is a member of the rose family. There are over 3,000 varieties of pears worldwide, varying in shape, size and color. Pears' sweetness can be credited to levulose, the sweetest of the natural sugars.

In the U.S., fresh pears are available year-round, with each variety having its own peak season. The most popular pear in the U.S. is the Bartlett, also used for canned pears. Bartletts come yellow or red, and feature the classic pear shape. D'Anjous are green or red and oval-shaped with smooth skin. Boscs are long-necked with rough brown skin. The most favored by connoisseurs is the large round and extra juicy Comice. Less common are Seckel, Forelle and Nelis varieties.

The Findings: Few fruits match the fiber of a pear. A medium pear boasts four grams, almost half of which is pectin, a soluble fiber that helps control blood cholesterol and blood sugar. There's also vitamin C (10% Daily Value) and potassium (208 milligrams), all for 98 calories. Watch out for sugar calories in pears canned in syrup.

Most pears contain flavonoids called catechins. Their antioxidant activity helps protect against carcinogens, though not as much as the flavonoids in apples, chocolate and tea.

The Finer Points: Pears are picked before they are fully ripe to prevent grittiness from forming in the flesh and making them taste mealy. To finish ripening at home, place pears in a paper bag and check daily. Bartletts change color from green to yellow as they ripen. Most other pears, however, stay one color. A ripe pear yields slightly when pressed on the stem end with your thumb. Because pears ripen from the inside out, a pear that's too yellow or soft around the middle, or has spots, is probably already overripe. Handle pears carefully, as they bruise easily. (Don't pile them up on each other.) Refrigerate once ripe to slow spoilage.

Although perfect eaten alone, as a snack or dessert, pears can be baked, poached, sauteed or grilled, making them good substitutes for apples in recipes. Pair them with cheese. Or add pears to green salads, tuna fish, cottage cheese or sandwiches for something new.

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Publication:Environmental Nutrition
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2002
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