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Pear: A Lucious Fall Fruit

In case you missed the chill in the air, the abundance of seasonal autumn produce – crisp apples, colorful squash, and pears should tell you that winter is just around the corner. Why pears? Why now? They are a truly versatile, luscious, flavorful and healthful fall fruit. Most North American pears are grown in Oregon and Washington. Though you can find some variety from August through May as some type is harvested year-round, true ‘pear season‘ begins in September/October. That is when they are most abundantly available, less expensive and flavorful. In case there is any doubt – just look at the range of skin colors among pear varieties. They match the gorgeous hues of the fall leaves: gold, russet, mauve, pale green, ginger, crimson and more.

Pear Varieties

Not a fan? Perhaps it’s because you’ve always eaten canned pears or rock hard, out-of-season green Anjou pears which are available almost year-round in supermarkets. It’s time to broaden your horizons and enjoy new varieties…as there are many. The first pear varieties to explode on the scene in September are Bosc (russet-colored and firm even when ripe), Bartlett (green and red, ultra juicy) and Comice (green with brown flecks, firm flesh). By October you can find Anjou (red and green), Concorde (pale green), Forelle (green skin spotted with red flecks) and Seckel (shiny skin, often mostly a muted green color with a patch of reddish-orange) appear…and that’s hardly a comprehensive list!

Some varieties might be harder to find in your region than others but make it your goal to try at least one new variety this season. You’ll find in-season pears to offer a firm but juicy texture and flavors that range from very sweet to tart. Use this as a guideline, but keep in mind most pears, as with many fruits and vegetables, can be eaten raw or cooked (except Bartlett).

Eating versus Cooking

Best for eating raw: Bartlett (soft, lose their shape when cooked), Comice (also juicy, very sweet, may not cook well), French butter, Anjou and Asian (‘crisp’ flesh, like an apple, good for dicing and adding to salads or using in tarts or crisps)

Best for cooking: Bosc, seckel (tiniest variety, very firm, slightly acidic) and forelle (sweet-tart, snacking or cooking)

Pear Nutrition and Health Benefits

The pear is a relatively low-calorie fruit. One medium-sized fruit, or about 175 grams, offers about 95 calories. Calories per fruit vary according to variety and size. They are fat, cholesterol and sodium-free but high in dietary fiber, providing roughly 6 grams per medium-sized fruit. Pears (and apples) contain an appreciable amount of soluble fiber, which may help to lower cholesterol levels and stabilize blood sugar levels (slows the release of glucose into the bloodstream).

Selecting and Storing

Choose firm, blemish-free, stem-on pears with unbroken skin. They ripen quickly and bruise very easily so handle with care. Store them at room temperature until they reach desired ripeness. Though you can store them in the refrigerator for a couple of days to ‘hold’ them at a certain ripeness, pears are best, and juiciest, when eaten at room temperature. They are ripe when the flesh ‘gives’ gently when pressed at the neck of the fruit.

Greek Yogurt Information and Recommendations

Do you love Greek yogurt (Greek-style yogurt)? It’s all the rage these days…pushing regular yogurt to the back of the shelf. In fact, it accounts for 1/3 of the yogurt in a typical grocery store. It’s thick and creamy, satisfying and, if you choose wisely, a very healthy snack choice or meal accompaniment. That said, don’t go crazy just yet – there is a huge difference among brands. Educate yourself before you buy. Greek yogurt brands are NOT all equal when it comes to taste, quality or nutritive value.

Greek Yogurt: Traditional versus ‘Faux’

Greek yogurt is traditionally made by straining regular yogurt to remove some of the liquid whey, leaving behind the thick, concentrated solids. This process increases the protein content significantly (15 to 20 grams per 6-oz. serving) but slightly decreases the calcium content (15 to 20% of the Recommended Daily Value or 150 to 200 mg of calcium per serving). Strained Greek yogurt is very similar to Icelandic-style skyr.

Faux Greek-style yogurt is made by adding thickeners to regular yogurt, such as inulin, cornstarch, gelatin and/or pectin. Manufacturers may add whey protein concentrate to bump the protein content up. If not, it will offer the same amount of protein as traditional yogurt, about 6 to 8 grams per 6-oz. serving. More protein per serving is one of the main benefits of choosing Greek yogurt! Unstrained yogurt with added thickeners also contains the same amount of calcium as regular yogurt (25 to 30% of the Recommended Daily Value or 250 to 300 mg per serving).

Greek Yogurt: General Nutrition Information

Greek yogurt can vary in calories, particularly depending upon whether or not you choose sugar-sweetened. Personally, I recommend steering clear of artificially sweetened Greek yogurt, which tastes a bit ‘too’ sweet. Most light varieties are usually made with a combination of artificial sweeteners. These days, folks are second-guessing whether loading up on artificial sweeteners is wise as new research emerges. You can stay conservative on calories, without limiting yourself to only light Greek yogurt varieties.

Most Greek yogurt varieties range from ‘bite-sized’ 3.5-oz servings all the way to generous 8-oz servings. Therefore they range in calorie content, starting at 90 calories and going all the way up to 280 calories. Per serving, Greek yogurt also varies in saturated (bad) fat content, ranging from 0 to 12 grams; a protein content of 6 to 20 grams; a calcium content of 100 to 350 mg and a sugar content of 1 to 4 tsp (includes natural and added sugars). In general, Greek yogurt is lower in carbohydrate than regular yogurt (comparing plain, non-flavored varieties). Stay tuned for ‘Best Picks.’

Our ‘Best Picks’ piece will include a review of dairy-free, lactose-free Greek yogurt substitutes, made with cultured almond, rice or soy milk.

Drawbacks? For those who do not like Greek yogurt and prefer traditional yogurt, particularly more exotic flavors as well as ready-to-eat puddings, etc., may be in a bind. Companies, such as Danone (makers of Oikos) and Stoneyfield Farm are being forced to limit production and eliminate less popular flavors of traditional yogurt to keep up with the Greek yogurt craze…to read more on this in an article published online (Wall Street Journal).

Zucchini Nutrition Facts

There’s zucchini…and then, well, there’s ZUCCHINI (see photo). This popular variety of summer vegetable is light, refreshing, versatile and delicious. Zucchini is easy to grow in a home garden….and boy, does it grow. Summer squash is in peak season early in the summer but home gardeners may not harvest it until mid-summer or later. Eating produce in-season ensures fantastic flavor and lower prices. Late summer and early fall is not time to wind down your trips to the farmer’s markets, but to kick it into high-gear as August is a big harvest month.

Summer squashes are relatives to winter squashes, such as pumpkins as well as melons and cucumbers. They belong to the Cucurbitaceae family of plants. Zucchini has a soft shell and creamy white flesh. In terms of selection, choose firm zucchini (free of blemishes) with a shiny, slightly prickly green skin. Store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for 4 to 5 days. DO NOT wash until you are ready to use.

This low-carbohydrate vegetable offers 20 calories per cup, sliced, 0 g fat, 4 g carbohydrate, 3 g sugar, 1 g protein, 1 g dietary fiber and 10 mg sodium. Zucchini is an excellent source of vitamin C and a good source of other essential micronutrients, such as molybdenum, vitamin B6 and manganese. Summer squash is one of the best food sources of various carotenoids (antioxidants found in dark green/orange veggies), such as alpha- and beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta-cryptoxanthin. Supporting healthy eyesight, offering anti-cancer benefits and supporting blood sugar metabolism are just three of the many health benefits of this nutrient-dense veggie. Eat raw (as a snack or on top of a salad) or slice and steam to retain the most nutrients (skin-on). Zucchini can be frozen, but doing so will soften the flesh…however, frozen summer squash actually retains its antioxidant content (potency) very well.

You can find recipes for zucchini bread, cake, muffins, etc. What about something different and super-easy? Cut your zucchini length-wise in 1/4″ slices. Brush lightly with olive oil and grill seasoning (and/or seasonings you like). Grill (on a pre-heated grill) until tender, about 3-4 minutes per side!