Look, we here at FruitStand have a soft spot for pears, and could easily spend thousands of words on the oblong treats.
But we know you’re here to learn more about the different types of pears out there, not necessarily to hear us wax philosophical on the subject.
So at the risk of this whole thing going pear-shaped, we’ll keep this intro short and sweet—and get straight to the point.
Pears are one of our oldest known fruits, with evidence of pear cultivation stretching all the way back to China in 2000 B.C.
But unlike most of its sweet-tasting brethren, this hardy fruit is particularly well-suited to cooler climates, making the pear a common natural phenomenon everywhere from Asia to Africa to Europe.
It’s cross-continental qualities can be spied in the fruits’ cultural contributions, where it’s served as everything from a passing reference in the Odyssey to the cornerstone of the world’s most cumbersome Christmas carol. (Though, in its defense, everyone always remembers to add their partridge in a pear tree.)
It can also be seen in the way pears are categorized, with cultivars typically sorted into two broad groups, depending on which continent they prefer.
Still, there are more than 30 different species of pears yielding more than 3000 varieties overall, so forgive us if we’ve pared down the list a bit.
With few other fruits able to flower in such comparatively cold temperatures, the European pear is considered one of the most important fruits in temperate regions. And while the trees are now commercially grown in Asia and Australia, their European roots are mainly in France, where they’ve become a staple of the country’s famous cooking.
Many of the most-familiar types of pears available in American grocery stores are of the European pear variety, including:
Bartlett: Possibly the most popular type of pear out there, the Bartlett varietal is also the quintessential version of the fruit, rocking the perfect pear shape and, many argue, the definitive pear taste – mild, sweet and mealy. As it ripens, its skin brightens, from a dull green to a brilliant yellow (or, depending on the variety, red), making the Bartlett a favorite choice of European impressionist painters – and modern-day still life enthusiasts – everywhere.
Bosc: One of the world’s most elegant pears, the Bosc—pronounced bah-sk—is known for its elongated shape and its special cinnamony-yellow skin. It’s also noted for its taste, described as both honey-like and woodsy. And while there’s some dispute over its exact origins (France or Belgium?), we can at least all agree that you’ll have to channel your best fahh-ncy European accent to pronounce it right.
Anjou: If the name wasn’t already a giveaway, this is another French type of pear, named for the region where it loves to grow best. Anjou pears are rounder than their oblong cousins, with a shorter neck giving them a more consistent shape. And this varietal can come in two colors: Green or red, with the former carrying a more refreshing citrusy taste and the latter delivering more of a tang.
Concorde: Apropos of its English origins, this popular hybrid is properly dressed, with a sleeker, elongated shape usually covered in a golden brown russet. But, with pears as with people, it’s what’s on the inside that really counts. Concordes deliver there, too, supplying a crispy bite with hints of honey and vanilla.
After getting their start in China, these types of pears hit the ground running, spreading roots as far and wide as Japan, Korea, Nepal and Taiwan.
They’re generally much denser and rounder than their European cousins, resembling an apple or egg more than a “traditional” pear shape. But they’re just as delicious for all of it, often being used to thicken up soy sauce with a bit of bulky sweetness.
Many Asian pear varieties also serve as a popular gift or holiday treat across the nation, including:
Chojuro: Large, round and the color of lightly-browned butter (to the delight of its French cousins), this type of pear truly looks like a treat. And it tastes like one too, with a flavor profile representing not butter but—even better!—butterscotch.
Hosui: Looking something like an orange speckled in sesame seeds, this varietal is particularly pretty—and, many would say, tasty, with the Hosui often claiming the title as the most delicious type of Asian pear. That’s thanks, no doubt, to its juicy flesh that delivers a bite that’s both sweet and tart.
Ya li: An ancient Chinese cultivar, these types of pears are so good they could make a tree cry. Or at least, that’s what it looks like when their lovely teardrop shapes elegantly hang from the branches. On the inside, Ya lis are mealy, mild and sweet—but be careful, like any frequent crier, these pears bruise easily.
Korean Giant: This varietal is anything but mysterious, with its name giving it all away up front. The Korean Giant pear is both originally grown in Korea and – as you may have guessed – pretty large. In fact, some examples can easily grow as big as a grapefruit. That’s good news, because on the inside, they’re a particularly tasty cultivar, rocking a crispy flesh and a sweet and tangy flavor that’s not too potent.
If only all pears could give us so much!