The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

On The Table

October 10, 2012

Pears a great alternative to apples this autumn season

WEBB CITY, Mo. — While apples tend to steal the headlines this time of year, there is another fall fruit that is just as tasty, just as versatile and, some say, even healthier -- it’s the pear.

Sometimes overlooked, pears are a perfect way to spice up a pie, and they make a great addition to a salad. Kay McLaughlin, owner of Hazel’s Bakery at the Webb City Farmers Market, said pears make a great alternative to apples when baking.

“Anything you can do with an apple, you can do with a pear,” McLaughlin said.

On a recent Friday afternoon at the market, McLaughlin sold both a pear pie and a pear upside-down cake. McLaughlin said both dishes were prepared in much the same way as their apple and pineapple counterparts. In the case of the pear pie, McLaughlin said she peeled, cored and sliced about six pears the same way she would if she were using apples. The one difference when making a pear pie, she said, is that she cooks them a bit to soften. For her upside-down cake, McLaughlin said she made the same basic cake that she does when making a pineapple upside-down cake and merely substituted pears for the pineapple.

According to the Pear Bureau Northwest website (www.usepears.com), the federal Food and Drug Administration says the pear is one of the 20 most popular fruits in the country. According to the website, its 98 percent carbohydrate content make the pear an excellent snack for those looking to lose weight, because carbohydrates contain half as many calories as fat. Because of its high amounts of fructose and glucose, the pear is also a great, quick and natural source of energy. Pears are also a great source of vitamin C, containing 30 percent more potassium than apples. Potassium, according to the website, “is necessary for maintaining heartbeat, muscle contraction, nerve transmission and carbohydrate and protein metabolism.” A recent study of 472,000 middle-age men, conducted by the National Institute of Health, also found that pears could decrease the risk of developing lung cancer.

Locally, the most common pears are the Bartlett and the slightly more colorful red Bartlett. Other popular varieties are the Anjou, Bosc, Comice, Seckle and Forelle.

The pear’s perks extend well beyond the lengthy list of its health benefits. It was once referred to as “a gift of the gods.” Put simply, pears just taste good.

“Pears have a different texture than an apple, but they’re still good,” McLaughlin said.

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