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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.

Avocado nutrition information and benefits

The avocado is a very unique fruit. Yes, it is a fruit. Though an avocado is a high-calorie, high-fat fruit, its nutrition and health benefits are beyond compare. This is definitely a food you should incorporate into your diet. This abundant cash crop was introduced to the United States, by Mexico, in the 19th century and today, roughly 95% of U.S. avocado production is located in southern California. Avocados are cultivated in Florida as well.

Avocado: Varieties

There are two flowering types of avocados (categorized as “A” or “B”) and they are differentiated according to the timing of the male and female flowering phases. There are a whopping 500 avocado varieties! However, seven varieties are (commercially) grown in California and include the Bacon, Hass (year-round), Fuerte, Gwen, Pinkerton, Reed and Zutano. The Lamb Hass is a  relatively newly cultivated summer variety of the Hass avocado. The Hass varieties accounts for nearly 95% of the total California crop.

“A” cultivars: Hass, Gwen, Lamb Hass, Pinkerton, Reed

“B” cultivars: Fuerte, Sharwil, Zutano, Bacon, Ettinger, Sir Prize, Walter Hole

All varieties are creamy and delicious with similar nutrition profiles, though certain varieties are ‘summer,’ others are ‘year-round’, etc. They also differ slightly in flavor, shape and color. You are probably most familiar with Hass and Fuerte avocados.

The Hass avocado is also the most cultivated variety worldwide, accounting for 80% of the all cultivated avocados. The Hass avocado has a rich, nutty flavor. The flesh is a light green color and the fruit oval in shape with black, pebbly skin. It ripens to a purplish-black color.

Top producers of the Fuerte avocado (also abundant in the U.S.) are (in order) Mexico, Indonesia and the Unites States. This type of avocado is medium-sized and pear-shaped fruit. The skin is leathery, green and easy to peel (ripens green). The creamy flesh is a yellow-green color, rich and mild-tasting.

Avocado: Nutrition Facts

Avocados are nutrient-rich. This fruit contains roughly a dozen different essential nutrients. Avocadoes have some carbohydrate, protein and lots of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat. They are also high in dietary fiber and offer vitamin K, folate, vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin E, pantothenic acid (B5), potassium, riboflavin (B2) and niacin (B3).  A 1-oz. portion (about 1/5th of the fruit) meets 4% to 8% of the Recommended Daily Value (DV) for each of the vitamins and minerals mentioned. The nutrition facts vary slightly according to the variety and origin. Just 1-oz. provides about 45 calories, 4 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 1 g protein, 2 g carbohydrates, 2 g dietary fiber, no cholesterol and no sodium.

Obviously, the larger your portion the more nutrients you consume. One cup of cubed avocado, or about 150 grams (unspecified variety) provides 240 calories, 22 g fat (only 3 g saturated fat), 3 g protein, 13 g carbohydrate, 10 g dietary fiber, no cholesterol and only 11 mg sodium. Though that is probably more calories and fat than you wish to consume in a 1-cup serving of fruit, the amount of dietary fiber and vitamin C (meets 25% of the DV) alone is astounding. In addition, most of the fat is very heart-healthy (monounsaturated) and yes, you do need fat in your diet!

Try this fresh, quick and easy avocado (guacamole) recipe:

Not only is this heart-healthy and tasty, but it is colorful and festive. Roughly mash one large ripe avocado and add 2 Tbsp diced sweet onion, 1/4 of a large, ripe tomato (seeded) or a handful of diced cherry tomatoes, 1 minced serrano chilis (stems and seeds removed) or jalapeno pepper, the juice of 1/2 lime or lemon and a pinch of coarse salt and pepper to taste.

Winter Produce offers variety flavor and nutrition

While many types of fresh fruits and vegetables are out of season during winter time, there are some very nutritious choices including winter squash, pears, apples, navel oranges, sweet potatoes, sweet bell peppers and grapefruit.

Wondering about winter squash? There are several types: butternut, Hubbard, turban, acorn and banana – and any of these can be used in recipes calling for winter squash. Winter squashes can be a tasty and filling treat, are great in casseroles, pies, soups, or mixed with grains and beans and are actually more nutritious than most summer squashes. One serving (~ ½ squash or 1 cup cubed) packs 6 grams of dietary fiber and is a good source of potassium, vitamin C, folate, magnesium, iron and calcium. Butternut and acorn squashes are members of the yellow-orange family of fruits and vegetables which means that they are abundant in the antioxidant beta-carotene, which is a precursor to vitamin A and may aid in prevention of certain types of cancer and macular degeneration. Try this sample recipe:

Sweet Buttered Squash

1½ pounds yellow squash, sliced thin (peeling optional)
1 small sweet onion, sliced thin and halved
1 medium green bell pepper, sliced in slender strips
1 TB brown sugar
1 – ½-oz packet of butter sprinkles
¼ tsp fresh cracked black pepper

Place onion, green pepper and squash in pan and cover. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently. When squash begins to get tender, add brown sugar, butter flakes, and black pepper. Cook until desired tenderness is obtained. Serve immediately. Note: Do not add any salt until you have tasted the squash. Serves 6.

Nutritional facts per serving:
44 calories
< 1 g fat
10 g carbohydrate
3 g dietary fiber
0 mg cholesterol
349 mg sodium