Pears: Another Michigan Tree Treasure

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Here in Michigan, a state known for its apples, pears don’t always get the attention they deserve. Then again, with only a little over a thousand acres of pear trees planted in our state, it’s somewhat understandable. This is especially true when you consider that there are approximately 48 thousand acres of apple trees here.

In spite of that, and of the fact that Michigan’s apple harvest has dropped over 40 percent since the early 80s, Michigan is STILL the 5th largest grower of pears in the U.S., with a little over 90 percent of growers producing either Bartlett or Bosc pears.

Our entire country’s production of pears is about 750 thousand tons, which sounds like a lot until you compare our harvest with that of the #1 producer, China. Its production is more than 20 times greater at 15 million tons.

Unlike apples, which make delicious pies and sauce, most pears end up being consumed either fresh, right out of the hand, canned, or as pear juice.

Pear Varieties and Uses

Besides the aforementioned Bartlett and Bosc pears, and depending on the season, you’re likely to find green and red d’ Anjou, Comice, Forelle and Seckel pears at Nino’s, and they’re all delicious!

D’ Anjou pears, both green and red, have much the same flavor, and both are delicious eaten right out of the hand when ripe and soft. However, I think I enjoy them even more when they’re still a bit crisp and then poached or baked in a wine syrup. The same could be said for Bosc pears.

The juicy and aromatic Bartlett pears, both yellow and red, are probably THE most popular pears, and both hold their shapes well when cooked. But this is a pear I most enjoy in salads, especially the red Bartlett. Its bright-red skin adds visual interest.

Bosc pears (generally speaking) are not quite as sweet as d’ Anjou or Bartett pears, but they make up for it with a delicious, almost spicy flavor that holds up well when baked or poached or used in salads.

The Comice pear, being a bit larger (and rounder) than most pears, is a good choice for presentation in a fruit bowl, as an accompaniment (sliced) on a diced-cheese board, or diced and served with a cheese fondue.

The Forelle and Seckel pears are both petite in size. However, what they lack in size, they MORE than make up for in sweetness and flavor. Because of their small size, I like to use these pears in dessert presentations where the pear is just part of the dish, leaving me the opportunity to add components to the plate without burdening anyone to eat a standard-sized pear. Both of these small pears are excellent choices for poaching or pickling whole. In addition, there’s an interesting (and delicious) recipe for each of these cuties on our website.

Speaking of desserts, one of my very favorite recipes for pears is a Pear Crisp, a crushed Ginger Snap Streusel that has a special sweet-spiciness and goes particularly well with any pear you choose.

With a crisp, there is no bottom crust, making this recipe easy to prepare.

Fresh Pear Crisp with Ginger Snap Cookie Crust

Serves 6

1 Cup Ginger Snap Cookies, crushed or chopped
1/2 Cup Rolled Oats (*not quick oats)
1/2 Cup Light Brown Sugar
3/4 Stick Melted Butter
6 Cups Pears, peeled, cored (halved and sliced ¼” or diced into ¾” pieces)
¼ Cup Granulated Sugar
2 TBSP Lemon Juice
2 TBSP Cornstarch
¼ Stick Melted Butter
Pinch Salt
½ tsp Cinnamon

  1. Grease, or spray with vegetable spray, a small, ovenproof baking dish (approximately 8“ x 8”).
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the ginger snap cookies with the rolled oats, brown sugar and ¾ cup of melted butter. Set aside.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix together the pears, granulated sugar, lemon juice, cornstarch, ¼ cup melted butter, salt and cinnamon, and pour that mixture into your baking dish.
  4. Top evenly with the ginger snap cookie and oat mixture, and bake in a 350 F oven approximately 45 minutes or until the filling is bubbly.
  5. Allow the crisp to cool until warm, and serve with the BEST vanilla ice cream you can find!