December isn't just National Pear Month, it's also peak pear season in the Pacific Northwest, with the chilly air adding sweetness to the fruits as they finish ripening on the tree. Sampling ten varieties of fresh pears from Oregon and Washington here at the SAVEUR office, the differences in flavor and texture were surprisingly clear; each has its own personality. Biting into the sweet, bright Green Anjou is a completely different experience from the almost overwhelmingly floral Starkrimson.
Pears of all stripes — including the ten here — are widely available in most food stores and markets across the country this time of year. When selecting pears, gently press your thumb at the neck to test for ripeness: the more give you feel, the riper the pear is. Store the fruit at room temperature until they reach optimal ripeness; they should then be kept in the fridge until eaten to avoid over-ripening.
Pears are great just the way they are, but they also wonderful cooked — try them baked into a tart, poached in wine, or preserved in a chutney.