|Photo credit: Jeff Quackenbush, 2008|
- Buy local — the pear grown close to home should taste better than the pear grown thousands of miles away.
- Buy small — the smaller the fruit at the time of ripening, the better and more intense the flavor.
- Buy soft — a degree of softness indicates ripeness for many fruits.
I don't understand why pears shipped on a boat from 3,000 miles away taste better than pears grown 50 miles away. Is it the torrential summer rains in Korea, compared with little to no summer rain in California? However, other fruit such as grapes lose flavor intensity with increased size because of overwatering. Bigger certainly is better for Asian pears, especially the large Korean varieties.
I have tasted smaller American-grown Asian pears, but they have rather bland, and the flavor is overpowered in a salad. Korean pears are best eaten raw in salads, which is why it's a prominent ingredient in my Korean potato salad recipe.
Korean pears taste best when they are still very firm to the touch. They should feel heavier than their size would suggest. If they're squishy, leave them.
Asian pears have tender, paper-thin skin that bruise and discolor easily when handled roughly during the picking or packing. That's why you see them in pretty paper and foam wrappers and eggcrate-type boxes at Korean grocery stores.
So, although it's OK to squeeze these pears, don't squeeze too hard. Remember, you break it, you buy it.