Pear is a fruit belonging to the genus Pyrus and hence, it has been scientifically christened as Pyrus communis. This fruit has a luscious flavour and belongs to the rose family having relation with the apples. In all likelihood, the English term ‘pear’ has been derived from Common West Germanic ‘pera’, while the name of the place Perry hints to the chronological presence of pear trees. The pear is categorized into sub-tribe Pyrinae within the tribe Pyreae. The apple is also a member of this sub-category. Generally speaking, there are about 30 different main species, foremost sub-species and naturally occurring inter-specific hybrids of pears.
Usually, pears have a big encompassing base that gets thinner towards the top. The skin of pears varies in color – yellowish, brown, green, red or having a mishmash of two or additional colors dependent on the type of the fruit. By and large, whenever we think of pears, it conjures the image of a bell-shaped fruit, but there are some varieties of this fruit that are round-shaped resembling apples. As in the case of apples, the core of pears also encloses several seeds. In other words, some varieties of pears roughly have the same dimension and features of apples with a number of seeds in the center. The fruit has a whitish-yellow hued flesh or tissue that is succulent and has a gently sweet flavour. The flesh of some varieties of pears is also grainy in form.
By and large, all varieties of pears enclose iron, but some varieties of the fruit enclose more iron compared to others. That pears contain substantial amounts of iron is evident from the fact that when a pear is cut and left unattended for some time, it becomes brownish. In case a cut pear does not turn brown on cutting, it denotes that this particular variety of the fruit contains minimum amount of iron or does not enclose any iron at all.
People have been cultivating pears in cool climatic places since time immemorial and there is sufficient proof of the fact that this sweet tasting fruit has been utilized as a food from the time when the primeval era existed. It is important to note that several hints relating to this fact have been discovered in the lake-dwellings in Switzerland. While the term ‘pear’ or something corresponding to it is still found in all the Celtic dialects, different terms are used to denote the fruit in Slavonic and other languages. However, all these terms in different languages talk about an identical item that is present in a diverse and multiple classifications that had prompted Alphonse de Candolle to conclude that in the primeval period people cultivated a type of tree in the region that extended from the coastal regions of the Caspian Sea to the Maritimes of the Atlantic Ocean.
In Odyssey VII Homer wrote that pears were cultivated in the magnificent orchards of Alcinous, also known as the ‘King of Panacea’ in Greek mythology. Describing the pears orchards, Homer had written that the pear, pomegranate and apple trees cultivated in the orchard of Alcinous were tall and lush green bearing fruits all through the year. He further wrote that these fruits neither fell nor perished during winter or summer.
In fact, although the Romans also cultivated pears, they did not eat the fruits raw. In his book ‘Natural History’, Pliny, the Roman author, naturalist and natural philosopher, wrote about three dozen varieties of pears and suggested that pears should be consumed after simmering them with honey. In addition, the Roman culinary book that is attributed to Apicius De re coquinaria includes a recipe for a spiced stewed-pear patina also known as soufflé. It is believed that a specific type of pears whose leaves are white underneath have derived from P. nivalis and this variety of the fruit is mainly made use of by the French to prepare perry. In addition, smaller sized pears as well as those resembling apples ripen comparatively early and are also referred to the P. cordata – a species of the fruit that grows naturally in the western region of France and is also widespread in Cornwall and Devonshire. On the eastern side of the globe, pears are known to have been grown in China for around 3000 years now. This genus of the fruit is said to be indigenous to the modern western China on the slopes of the mountain range in Central Asia called Tian Shan. From there, this variety of pears has reached the northern and southern regions with the length of the mountain chains. Later, this variety changed into a varied group of more than 20 commonly familiar primary species of pears.
It is believed that the vast assortment of the pears grown in Europe, such as Pyrus communis, sub-species communis, have certainly originated from one or two natural sub-species of the fruit, including P. communis, sub-species and P. communis sub-species caucasia, and were later spread all over Europe. At times, trees of these originally wild varieties of pears form a portion of the normal vegetation of the forests in the region. It is interesting to note that a very old pear tree gave its name to Pirio or Perry Barr, a district in Birmingham in England, in Domesday. Most people in England occasionally believe that the fruit is uncultivated, but this perception may not be correct. It is possible that the variety of pears in England owes its origin to the seed of some cultivated variety that may perhaps been transported by birds or come by some other means and later germinated as a wild variety of trees that bears spines. Documents available from the court of King Henry III of England verify that pears were shipped from Rochelle by the Sheriffs of London who gifted the fruits to the King. In fact, the French names of a number of varieties of pears cultivated in the gardens in England during the medieval period hint that the fruits had a certain status in France. A favourite selection of the fruit was named for Saint Rule or Regul’, who was the then bishop of Senlis.
The species’ of pears grown in Asia usually range between medium to large sized fruits and include P. ussuriensis, P. pyrifolia, P. x sinkiangensis, P. x bretschneideri and P. pashia. Some other varieties of the fruit that are usually smaller in size are often utilized as rootstocks for growing cultivated varieties.
The most common types of pears that are available in the market include varieties such as:
- The Bosc variety of pears having a skin color ranging from tan to brown with long and narrow necks. Compared to other varieties of the fruit, the fleshy tissues of this variety of pear is not succulent enough.
- Another variety of pear is the Anjou that has a yellowish-green skin and an elliptical shape. Among all types of pears, Anjou is the most tasteless or insipid and it is usually available in the winter.
- On the other hand, the Bartlett’s variety has a radiant yellow skin and yields very sweet fluids. This variety of pear is generally available during the period between summer and the fall.
- However, the best flavoured pear is the Comice variety. Pears of this variety are not only sweet and succulent, but, compared to other varieties, also have a fuller and rounder shape. The Comice variety of pears has a spotted green skin that conceals the fruit’s wonderful taste. This variety is available during the period from late fall to right up to Christmas.
As discussed earlier, the pear is a sweet tasting fruit related to and sometimes resembling apples. Usually, pears are of the same size as apples and like apples, enclose numerous seeds in the center. However, there is one specific distinction between apples and pears. Unlike apples, pears have very thin skins and are easier to peel. The skin of pears differ in their color – varying from green, yellow, red, brown and also combinations of one or more of these hues.
The fleshy tissues of pears have a light yellowish color and they are usually succulent, sweet and also placid. While the surface of most varieties of pears is supple and fatty, some other varieties of the fruit have a grainy texture. While most of us believe pears to be bell-shaped, actually some varieties of the fruit have a round shape almost like the apple.
It may be noted that amongst the different varieties of pears, the type of fruit cultivated in China – Chinese pear – is said to possess the maximum therapeutic properties. However, all other varieties of pears also have their own nutritional and remedial values.
Dietary advantages from pears
Pears offer plenty of nourishments or dietary benefits. While, depending on the variety of the fruit, they generally contain varying levels of iron, pears are also a superb resource of dietary fiber that is soluble in water. In addition, chemical analysis of pears has established that the fruit also contains several vitamins – vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, C, E, and folic acid. This fruit also contains high levels of a number of essential minerals like phosphorus, copper and potassium and traces of chlorine, calcium, sodium, magnesium and sulfur.
A number of varieties of pears also contain more amounts of iron compared to other varieties. When a pear turns brown on cutting, it is evidence of the fact that this variety of the fruit contains considerable amounts of iron. However, if it does not become brownish on cutting, it denotes that the particular variety of pear either contains an insignificant amount of iron or does not have it at all.
Health advantages from pears
Pears have a number of health benefits and primary among them is the fruit’s hypo-allergic properties. Many healthcare providers suggest people to consume pears as the fruit has a high content of dietary fiber, but does not contain any element that might provoke an allergic reaction. In fact, the juice of the fruit may be given to infants for it is not only nourishing, but also mild and is effective in maintaining good health. Some of the different health benefits of pears are listed below:
- Pears are rich in vitamin C and copper content which work as excellent antioxidants that safeguard our cells from any type of harm from the damaging free radicals.
- Pears also enclose high levels of antioxidants and anti-carcinogen glutathione that are useful in avoiding the risks of developing high blood pressure or hypertension and stroke.
- Drinking pear’s juice helps to provide instant energy as the fruit encloses high levels of fructose and glucose. Hence, pears are considered to be natural energy providers.
- The fruit contains high levels of pectin that enables pears to effectively reduce the intensity of cholesterol in the blood stream.
- If you do not prefer drinking pear’s juice, eat the fruit fresh and raw as the valuable dietary fiber enclosed by the fruit is extremely useful for the health of the colon.
- Pears also enclose high amount of boron that aids the body to keep hold of calcium. This way consumption of pears helps in preventing or inhibiting the development of osteoporosis.
- The antioxidants enclosed by pears are very important for developing as well as fortifying the immune system. Hence, it is advisable that you should drink pear’s juice whenever you feel that you are likely to be inflicted by cold or flu.
- Consumption of pears results in a cooling effect in the body and this is tremendous in alleviating fever or bringing down the high body temperature. By drinking a large glass of fresh pear’s juice, one is able to bring down the fever fast.
- In addition, the juice extracted from pear possesses anti-inflammatory properties and this is effective in alleviating much of the tenderness and swelling in several conditions that are accompanied with inflammation.
- Pear’s juice also helps in clearing up phlegm (thick mucus secreted from the respiratory passages). Therefore, when children suffer from excessive phlegm or shortness of breath during the summer heat, giving them pea’s juice will prove to be helpful.
- Pear also contains high levels of folic acid or folate which is effective in avoiding defects in the neural tube (the conduits of the central nervous system in the spine present in vertebrates) among the newborns.
- Believe it or not, there is a particular reason why pears are available during the summer. If you regularly drink pear’s juice in the morning and at night during this hot season, it will help to chill your body. In addition, pear’s juice also promotes the health of the throat as well as helps in avoiding throat disorder that are common during this time of the year.
- It has been already discussed that the variety of pears cultivated in China possesses the maximum therapeutic values. Hence, if you boil the juice extracted from two Chinese pears along with some amount of unrefined honey and drink the mixture while it is still warm, it will be highly effective in healing your throat as well as the vocal cord.