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|Food Buzz: History of Pears||Listen|
|Food Fable: Pears||Listen|
Shandong pears are small in size and are oval and somewhat lopsided in shape with a bulbous bottom tapering to a narrow and rounded neck. The green skin is bumpy, firm, is covered in russeting, and has prominent lenticels covering the surface that connects to a slender, dark brown-black stem. The pale white to ivory flesh has a slight green ring just below the skin’s surface and is moist, dense, crisp, semi-grainy, and fragrant. There is also a central core encasing a few small, dark brown seeds. Unlike its European cousin, Shandong pears ripen on the tree and are sold for immediate consumption. They are juicy and crunchy with a mild, sweet flavor.
Shandong pears are available in the late summer through early fall.
Shandong pears, botanically classified as Pyrus pyrifolia, are a Chinese variety that are members of the Rosaceae family along with peaches and apricots. Though its appearance may look similar to a European variety, the Shandong pear is a true Asian variety and gets its name from its place of origin, the Shandong province in China. The Shandong pear is occasionally confused with the ya pear, Pyrus bretschneideri, but is an entirely different species sometimes commonly referred to as an apple pear or sand pear. Shandong pears are favored for their crunchy texture, petite size, and sweet flavor, and are used in both savory and sweet preparations.
Shandong pears contain nutrients such as dietary fiber, necessary for digestive and cardiovascular health, and also contain vitamins C and K, copper, and potassium.
Shandong pears are best suited for raw applications as their crunchy texture, and sweet flavor is showcased when consumed fresh, out-of-hand. They are commonly sliced and added to green salads, cubed for fruit salads, grated into coleslaw, or sliced into stir-fries. They can also be chopped and added to vegetable bowls, sautéed with cinnamon to serve atop pork chops, slow cooked to make a sweet sauce for short ribs, served in mulled white wine or a warm pear toddy, or hollowed out and stuffed with dried fruit and nuts. Shandong pears can be used as a substitute for sugar to sweeten dishes and can be combined with vinegar and soy sauce as a marinade for meats such as pork or duck. Their sweet flavor and juiciness will also add to cakes, pies, crisps, muffins, and quick bread. Shandong pears compliment cashews, blue cheese, manchego cheese, red onion, scallions, garlic, leafy greens, celery, fennel, sweet potato, salmon, shrimp, pork, poultry, duck, lime, blackberries, honey, sesame oil, shiso, miso, and daikon. They will keep up to one week when stored at room temperature and for a couple of weeks when stored in the refrigerator.
Pears have been a part of the East Asian culture for thousands of years and have come to symbolize many different things that are specific to various cultures. In China, pears signify justice, wisdom, and longevity, and are considered a cooling fruit in traditional medicine used for detoxification purposes to reduce symptoms of coughs, laryngitis, ulcers, and constipation. In Japan, pears were used to protect property from bad luck and were planted near gates and in the corners of the property to ward off evil and misfortune. In Korea, pear trees symbolize purity, grace, and comfort.
Shandong pears are native to the Yangtze River Valley in China where they still are found growing wild and have been growing for thousands of years. Commercial production of the pear has increased significantly in the last ten years, and today Shandong pears can be found at local markets and specialty grocers throughout Asia. These pears are also exported to Australia and select regions in Europe.
Recipes that include Shandong Pears. One is easiest, three is harder.
|Bren Did||Easy Pear Sauce and Pear Fruit Leather|
|Recipe Runner||Pear Ginger Smoothie|
|Monika Hibbs||Pear & Cinnamon Muffins|