By Kathy Stephenson
Currently, consumer and restaurateur interest and passion for fruits and vegetables is at an all-time high. It’s time for the uniquely beautiful, powerfully delicious pear to hit the sweet spot for operators in Canada. With a breadth of variety and character, pears are a vibrant, sweet, succulent upgrade to menu fare from breakfast to dessert. A little know-how will make patron-pleasing pears an adored part of contemporary menus.
Cool mountain streams burble through lush valleys, over rich, volcanic soils, making the ten varieties of pears grown in the Northwestern United States full of different, complex flavors. Growers first planted here in the late 1800s, bringing hearty root stock to the end of the rail line. Now third and fourth generations of families tend these same orchards, rooted two centuries ago in wide orchards and fresh air. Yes, new methods like trellis and compressed planting are driving efficiency and year-round availability. But with an average of 50 acres per grower, most of the 1,600 pear orchardists in the Washington and Oregon are part of a family legacy.
Across the menu, versatile pears bring balance and excitement – from caramelized pears atop fluffy Dutch pancakes to earthy, rich roasts with pears and root vegetables. Pears are an easy upgrade to salads and desserts, but less expected in appetizers and cocktails. Sliced pear brie quesadilla or pear and fresh herb thin-crust pizza can be delightfully simple and surprising. Increasingly, on-trend chefs and operators differentiate their tastes by calling out specific varieties of pear, including dessert menus featuring Seckel Upside Down Cakes and Espresso Poached Bosc.
Managing inventory to ensure pears are flavorfully ripe and extend usability after ripe is simpler than most chefs realize. When refrigerated cases of pears are delivered, follow these simple steps to reduce shrink and keep perfect pears in stock:
- Remove the case of pears from refrigeration to begin the ripening process
- Remove the box lid to increase air circulation and allow pears to reach room temperature
- Each day, check the neck of pears to identify when the case is ripe. To do this, press firmly near the stem with your thumb. If the pear yields, it’s ripe.
- When ripe, return to refrigeration to extend shelf life. They will keep for another 5 days and more after ripening.
Ripening and handling can seem tricky, but more resources and training can be found on foodservice.usapears.org.
USA Pears are available from October through June, as pears hold beautifully in controlled atmosphere storage. Enjoy local Canadian pears while available, but watch for pears from the Northwestern states of the U.S., where rich soil and clear steams deliver reliable, year-round delectable pears for the menu.
About the author:
Kathy Stephenson is Marketing Communications Director, Pear Bureau Northwest. For more information visit www.usapears.com.