Local pears are here! Aptly named Luscious and Moon Glow, they are small, sweet, juicy and flavor-packed. Find them in farmers markets and food co-ops. Unlike most commercial varieties, these are tree-ripened and ready to eat. Don’t be put off by their rusty, speckled appearance. Keep in mind that when you bite into one of our perfectly ripe fruits, sticky juice will dribble down your elbow.
Our season is short, and these ripe pears do not store well. So when you find them, stock up. Look for pears that are golden in color and slightly tender to the touch, and avoid any with soft brown spots at the stem end. When you get them home, store them in paper bags in the refrigerator (plastic traps moisture and hastens decay).
More readily available, West Coast Comice and Bosc pears need to ripen a little before they’re ready to eat because they’re shipped while still hard so as to protect them on their journey from orchard to store. At home, set them in a paper bag on the counter for a day or two, or until they are tender.
Many cooks focus on apples as fall arrives, but I’ve always had a fondness for our local pears. They are more versatile, good when only a little underripe and slightly crisp, and absolutely fabulous when they’re at their creamiest, most luscious peak.
Pears work wonderfully in salads tossed with bitter greens, such as endive, or chopped kale and balsamic vinaigrette. With any type of green, top it off with crumbled blue cheese. The fruit’s mellow nature softens the cheese’s distinct punch. Simmer pears into a sauce, as you would apples, adding warm spices like ginger or cinnamon or cardamom. The pears’ flavor is so nicely balanced you won’t need much sweetener so taste first before stirring in honey or maple sugar.
Swirl chopped pears into batters of muffins or sweet breads. Layer slices into sandwiches with Gouda for grilled cheese.
As the evenings turn chilly and damp, it’s time to start roasting — chicken, pork, lamb and hearty root vegetables. For any of these, pears are the perfect partner. They caramelize and turn syrupy in the heat. Anything an apple can do, a pear can do better. Now is the time to enjoy them both.
Beth Dooley is the author of “In Winter’s Kitchen.” Find her at bethdooleyskitchen.com.