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The Asian pear is a round fruit similar in shape and size to an apple, and it is sometime called the apple pear. It has a crunch and texture similar to that of an apple, but retains more of the sweetness and flavor of a pear. It was once cultivated primarily in China and Japan, but became popular in US due to demand by immigrants from Asia. This demand, in turn, help to increase the popularity of this fruit among other residents. In the US, it is primarily cultivated in California’s Central Valley.
Fans of Asian pears are particularly fond of the fact that the fruit does not require the ripening process of other pears. While most pears need to be picked while green and allowed to ripen, this variety is picked ripe and ready to eat. It has a longer shelf life than other pears, especially when refrigerated. The skin is subject to bruising, however, if the fruit is roughly handled during the picking, packing, or shipping process.
There are actually numerous cultivars of the Asian pear. The most commonly seen varieties in the US are those with a yellow to brownish bumpy skin and a round shape. Different cultivars are tear-dropped shaped and have green to yellow skin.
The Asian pear can be found in most grocery stores from July through September, depending on the area and each season’s individual climate variations. A summer season with below normal temperatures may result in slower ripening, and shoppers may be able to buy the pears through October or even November in some locations.
Caring for Asian pear trees is labor intensive, and they must be pruned extensively in order to provide good-sized fruit. This means yield on trees is low. Diseases and blights may also affect the tree's production. Organic varieties tend to have the lowest yield since there are fewer organic pesticides that can safely eliminate blight or diseases. Since the fruit enjoys such popularity, but crop yield is low, it can be relatively expensive.
Asian pears are often eaten alone, but they can also be excellent in fruit and green salads. They are not usually used in baked recipes, since cooking tends to deprive the pear of its unique crunchiness.