Pears are at their peak during the cooler months starting in autumn.
Pears are picked when mature but still hard, rather than when they are ripe. This prevents them from becoming too granular and soft. Look for smooth, unblemished fruits with their stems still attached. They should be fragrant and just beginning to soften near the stem. They must be left at room temperature to soften and sweeten and are ready to eat when they wrinkle a little at the stem and are slightly soft at the blossom end. Pears are also available dried and canned in light sugar syrup or in fruit juice.
Pears can be left unpeeled for eating fresh, but be sure to peel them before cooking. Although the peel is edible, some fruits may have tough skins with a slightly bitter flavor that is accentuated when cooked. When cutting pears for salads or hors d’oeuvres, halve them lengthwise, then scoop out the core with a small spoon or melon baller. Like cut apples, cut pears should be tossed with a little lemon juice to prevent discolouring.
Handle pears gently, for they bruise easily. Leave them at room temperature for a few days to ripen. Pears are notorious for having an extremely brief period of ripeness between being still too hard to eat and heading toward spoiling. They can be refrigerated in plastic bags for 3 to 5 days, depending on their degree of ripeness, but for the best flavour, be sure to bring them back to room temperature before eating. Because of their delicate texture, pears do not freeze well.