Pear Varieties

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About

Originally, all pears were gritty “sand pears” and hard-fleshed. Centuries of breeding greatly reduced the prominence of gritty stone cells (but not in varieties for making perry, the pear version of cider, where they’re valued for helping to grind the flesh before fermentation). The soft “butter” texture characteristic of many European pears was developed in the 18th century by Belgian and French breeders. European pears are classified in three groups according to when they’re harvested and their traditional storage life (now extended by controlled atmospheres and temperatures). Summer pears like the Bartlett (also called Williams or Bon chretien) are harvested in July and August and keep for one to three months; autumn pears like the Bosc and Comice are harvested in September and October and keep two to four months; and winter pears like the Anjou and Winter Nellis are harvested in October and November and keep six to seven months.