Sometimes called apple or salad pears, Asian pears combine the crispy crunch of the root vegetable jicama with the sweet juiciness of an apple (pears and apples are in the same plant family). You can find Asian pears at your local farmers’ markets starting in May—and since they store well for up to six months in cold storage—through October. While there are more than 100 varieties of Asian pears, the most popular and common cultivar in California is the “20th Century” (also known as nijisseiki), which originated in Japan in the 1900s. Look for large round fruit that are firm to the touch and golden yellow in color (greener ones are less ripe). Once ripe, store them carefully in the refrigerator as they tend to bruise easily and soften when kept at room temperature.
Asian pears are high in fiber, vitamins C and K; low in calories (about 50 calories per serving), and high in phytonutrients like phenols and flavonoids (according to the reference guide for food scientists and nutritionists, Bowes and Church’s Food Values of Portions Commonly Used). An added bonus: their high concentrations of antioxidants help fight free radicals in the body, supporting cancer prevention. According to Paul Pitchford’s Healing with Whole Foods, eating pears help fight constipation and can reduce gallbladder inflammation and obstruction. He reminds foodies to be sure to eat the skin to maximize your intake of the pear’s potent antioxidants and fiber content, which can help minimize the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Like apples, Asian pears are delicious eaten out of hand, paired perfectly with peanut or almond butter, made into a portable tart or pie, pureed into a smoothie with fresh ginger and cinnamon, added to a savory stir-fry, or showcased in a salad. They pair naturally with pungent ginger, as is the case in this picnic-packable salad recipe that features this combination coupled with bitterness of arugula, citrus zip from lemon, and an added crunch from salted, toasted almonds.
Asian Pear Salad with Arugula and Lemon Ginger Vinaigrette
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Yields: 6 servings
1/2 cup almond slivers or whole almonds, lightly crushed
1 tsp grapeseed oil
1 dash of sea salt
1 dash of cayenne pepper
1 dash of black pepper
5 ounces organic wild or baby arugula
2 Asian pears (about a pound)
Lemon Ginger Vinaigrette
2 Tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice (about ½ lemon)
1½ tsp ginger root (about 1½ inches)
½ tsp sea salt
¼ tsp fresh ground black pepper
4 Tbsp flaxseed oil
- Toast the almonds in a small skillet over medium-high heat in the grapeseed oil. Sprinkle with sea salt and a pinch of cayenne and black pepper. Toss for a minute or two and coat well. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Grate the ginger on the fine side of a box grater (or juice it if you have a juicer). Add to a measuring cup or mug, and then whisk in the lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Slowly whisk in the olive oil. Taste and adjust seasoning.
- Quarter the Asian pears and cut out the cores. Slice thinly crosswise with a sharp knife. In a large bowl, toss the arugula with the pear slices and pumpkin seeds.
- Add the dressing to the pear mixture and toss well.
- (If packing for a party or a picnic, place the dressing in the bottom of a storage container, then add the pears on top, followed by the arugula and secure the lid. Pack the almonds separately and toss well just before serving.)
Can’t find Asian pears? Substitute green apples or Bosc pears instead.
Red Jen Ford is a Certified Holistic Health Coach, Yoga Instructor and Seasonal Eating Expert who teaches the benefits and simplicity of eating local, sustainably grown food. Enjoy her seasonal recipe booklets or online course, Simply in Season – Fall Recipes to Celebrate Healthy, Easy Seasonal Food: Redjenford.com.