Is It Ripe?
When you’re at the market, look for a pear that’s relatively soft -- hard, unripe pears are just going to have to sit there until they ripen. A trick for telling whether it’s ripe: Press gently near the stem with your thumb, looking for the pear to give slightly. Pears ripen starting on the inside, and since the neck is the narrowest part, it’ll give you the best clue to what’s happening inside. If the bottom, fattest part of the pear feels soft, the inside will actually be overripe. (If that happens, just throw it in a smoothie!) And, unless you’re different from the majority of Americans, you won’t like a pear at the early stages of ripening very much. Look for pears without bruises or blemishes, and handle them gently -- even firm-skinned pears can bruise easily.
Is It Local?
The USA is the third-largest pear-producing country in the world, so chances are your pear is American. Eighty-four percent of American pears are grown in the orchards of Oregon or Washington, though, so if you’re on the East Coast it won’t be easy to get a truly local pear.
When Are Pears in Season?
Some variety of pears should be ripe year-round, but fall and winter are definitely prime pear seasons.
Types of American Pears
Season: August to February
The peariest of the pears, this juicy fruit is ripe once it turns from bright green to a more golden yellow. It’s great for snacking, canning, salads and desserts.
Season: September to April
These cinnamon-colored, sweet pears have long, tapered necks and are great for cooking and eating fresh.
Season: September to March
Round and full with a short neck and stem, these make great desserts and pair well with cheese. You’ll usually find them green, with some red blush.
Season: September to February
A tall, long-necked green (with some yellow spots) pear, this one is good for snacking and also heats up well.
Season: September to July
This dense pear is sweet and juicy, and good for just about any usage, from breakfast to dessert.
Season: September to May
Like the Green Anjou, this pear is juicy and sweet, and its bright color makes it a great choice for adding to dishes like salads or desserts.