Pears: Perfect in pastry, salads, cakes and puddings, pear is best enjoyed right about now as it comes to the height of its season.
Many varieties are grown globally, but only a handful of varieties are readily available in the UK. Conference is the dominant variety claiming 85% of all pears grown in the UK; due to its long season (September to May) and massive versatility.
Along with Conference pears, British Comice are also commonly found this time of year. Concorde is less widely grown on our shores but just as delicious with a firmer texture.
Seasonal period: September to May (this is applicable mainly to Conference pears; other British varieties begin their season in October and tend to end around February)
Flavour friends: Both the Comice and Conference are fantastic in sweet as well as savoury dishes, adding an exciting depth of texture and flavour.
Comice pears are particularly good with all types of cheese, but particularly blue – with their beautifully blushed skin and bulbous shape, these pears are a fantastic addition to any cheese board simply washed and skin left on. To enhance their earthy flavour even more, add some toasted nuts such as walnuts.
Conference are delicately sweet making them an ideal dessert pear. In cakes, pies, crumbles or simply poached, they work brilliantly with robust flavours in need of softening, such as spices and ginger.
Buying, storing and preparing: Pears are traditionally harvested slightly under-ripe, so should be firm and blemish-free ready for ripening at home.
Delicately place in their own fruit bowl to avoid bruising them with other fruits. Once ripe and ready to eat, simply wash. If cooking, pears can be carefully peeled using a vegetable peeler, though the skin is perfectly edible and adds great texture.
Cooking: Although traditionally eaten raw, pears can also be poached, baked, roasted or even sautéed. To ensure they hold form, cook using slightly under-ripe pears.
Poached: 15-18 minutes Baked or roasted: 15 – 20 minutes Sauteed or fried: 4 – 6 minutes
Words & Photo by Helen Upshall