It is believed that the pear was known by prehistoric man. There is convincing archeological evidence of this, from the excavation of the ancient lake dwellers in Switzerland.
Chinese records show commercial pear cultivation as early as 5000 B.C. Ancient pears tended to be smaller and bit more bitter than today's counter parts. In the eighth century BC, In The Odyssey, the Greek poet Homer claims pears are a "gift of the gods." Pomona, goddess of fruit, was a cherished member of the Roman Pantheon and Roman farmers documented extensive pear growing and grafting techniques. The Romans proceeded to use those grafting techniques to develop more than 50 varieties. They also introduced the cultivated pear to other parts of Europe. Thanks to their versatility and long storage life, pears were a valuable commodity among the trading routes of the ancient world. As they are often seen in the works of the Renaissance Masters, pears have long been an elegant still-life muse for artists. Pears are members of the rose family and related to the apple and the quince. Just like some women, pears have a semi-rough exterior that bruises easily with buttery insides, and a large round bottom that tapers towards the top.
In the 17th century modern pear cultivation began taking place in Europe, and as we all know on the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me a "partridge in a pear tree." As all of us have been singing since the 18th-century. Accounting for the first of The Twelve Days of Christmas. English records show that in 1629 pears were sent by the Massachusetts Company to New England colonists to plant and grow into trees at Plymouth, MA. The first pear trees in America's eastern settlements thrived until crop blights proved too severe to sustain widespread cultivation. Fortunately, the pear trees that were brought west to Oregon and Washington by pioneers in the 1800's thrived in the unique agricultural conditions found in the Pacific Northwest. Today's Northwest pear varieties are the same or similar to those first cultivated in France and Belgium where they were prized for their delicate flavor, buttery texture, and long storage life. When more sophisticated irrigation and growing techniques were developed during the past century, pear orchards flourished dramatically in the Northwest's river valley regions from Northern Central Washington to Central Southern Oregon. Today, the pear orchards in Oregon and Washington are as specialized as the regions where they are grown. From small organic, to large commercial farms all contribute high-quality fruit to the Northwest's pear industry. Consumer interest and enjoyment of Northwest pears grows each year. Thanks to advancements in Controlled Atmosphere (CA) storage technology, fresh USA Pears are available to consumers nearly year-round. The State of Oregon named the pear Oregon’s official state fruit, and the USDA annually recognizes the pear by declaring the month of December as National Pear Month.
The USDA has found that pears have a very high Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity. ORAC is a way of expressing a measure of the antioxidant activity of food. Antioxidants help prevent damage caused by free radicals, which are byproducts of reactions between oxygen and foods when energy is created. Free radical damage increases when diets are antioxidant-poor, because free radicals are allowed to roam the body damaging other cells and tissues. To reduce the chance of damage, the USDA recommends a diet high in antioxidant foods, such as pears. Key nutrients in pears include vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, potassium, iron, fiber, vitamin B1 (thiamine), vitamin B2 (riboflavin), niacin, potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, zinc, copper, selenium, manganese, fructose, glucose, sucrose, pantothenic acid, and vitamin E. Some of the important phytochemicals in pears are beta-carotene, caffeic acid, quercetin, pectin, and tocopherols. To determine the iron levels in a pear, see if it turns brown when cut. If it doesn’t turn brown, the iron content is very low or non-existent.
Here is a few of the health benefits of pears:
- Help for Diabetics. Pears have a low glycemic index (GI) of just 38. Low-GI foods are digested and absorbed more slowly, producing a more gradual rise in blood glucose and insulin levels. Foods with a low-GI are recommended in the prevention of coronary heart disease and obesity, and in the management of diabetes. Particularly for diabetics, pears are one of the fruits that can improve blood glucose levels, help a person lose weight, and improve concentration.
- Non-Allergenic Benefits. Pears are a hypoallergenic fruit, and are the only fruit allowed on elimination diets used to test allergy sufferers. This also makes pears and pear juice attractive for serving to small children because they are less likely to produce adverse reactions.
- Cancer Prevention. Pears contain hydroxycinnamic acid, which has been identified as helping to prevent stomach cancer. At least one serving of apples and pears a day is associated with a reduced risk of lung cancer in women. The high vitamin C and copper content act as good antioxidants that protect cells from damage by free radicals. Studies have revealed that eating pears help protect women against postmenopausal breast cancer.
- Pulmonary Disease. Eating pears appears to improve lung function and reduce Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease symptoms such as breathlessness and coughing.
- Inflammation. Pears can be useful in treating inflammation of mucous membranes, colitis, chronic gallbladder disorders, arthritis, and gout.
- Asthma Prevention. An Australian study has revealed people who eat pears regularly have the lowest risk of developing asthma.
- Constipation. The pectin in pears is diuretic and may have a mild laxative effect. Drinking pear juice regularly is said to help regulate bowel movements. A high sorbitol content, plus extra fiber, makes pears ideal for persons suffering from constipation.
- Healthy Cholesterol Levels. Like other fruits, pears have been shown help sustain healthy cholesterol levels because of the high content of pectin. Pears are actually higher in pectin than apples.
- Bone Health. Pears provide copper and vitamin C. They also have boron, which is needed for proper functioning of calcium and magnesium; boron helps the body retain calcium and thus prevents or retards osteoporosis.
- Blood Pressure. Pears have antioxidant and anticarcinogen glutathione, which help prevent high blood pressure and stroke.
- Energy. You can get quick and natural source of energy from pears, due largely to its high amounts of two monosacharides (fructose and glucose) and carbohydrates.
- Sore Throat and Fever. Pears are known to have a cooling effect that is excellent in relieving fever. Some say the best way to bring a fever down quickly or sooth a sore throat is to drink a big glass of pear juice. The antioxidants will also build your immune system; so drink pear juice when you feel a cold coming on. One recommendation says that for vocal chord health, boil the juice of two Chinese pears with raw honey and drink it warm.
- Pregnancy. The high content of folate (folic acid) is thought to help prevent neural tube defects in infants.
- Vision. Regular consumption of pears is thought to lower the risk of age-related macular degeneration, the main cause of vision loss in older adults.
This practice of growing pears in the bottle is traditional in Alsace, France where pear brandy has been made for hundreds of years. Pear-in-the-bottle is highly labor intensive, requiring weeks of work putting the bottles on the trees in late May when the small pear will still fit in the neck of the bottle, tending them all summer, and picking them in late August. Since they use no preservatives or artificial cleaning solutions, each pear and each bottle must be painstakingly scrubbed by hand before they fill it with pear eau de vie for which they are known worldwide. Due to the unpredictable nature of pear growth from year to year the pear in the bottle is only available certain years. Now I ask you can you think of any reason you shouldn't eat more pears? Didn't think so. Good Luck...
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