Tasting the Seasons: Pears

by  Dr Rupy Aujla14 Feb 2023

Pears are a juicy staple in my fruit bowl during the fall and winter months. They're great as a quick snack with nuts, nut butter, yoghurt or cheese, spiced and stewed as a dessert, or even in a soup! They’re one of your fruit options and may help support good health, including the prevention of type 2 diabetes. But that’s not all, they hold many secrets that will make you want to bite into one right now! Plus, a news update on the current challenges facing British growers.

Back in time

Pears are one of the oldest plants cultivated by humans. They are native to Europe and West Asia and have been enjoyed for thousands of years.

As a food: They have been cherished as a sweet fruit by cultures throughout history. The ancient Greek author Homer described them as “gifts from the gods” in The Odyssey, likely due to their sweet, juicy flavour. In Korea, they have been cultivated since the Samhan period, about 300 BCE. Throughout the UK, they have been grown in gardens and orchards since AD 995 and many cultivars now exist. (Hong et al. 2021; WoodlandTrust)

𖧵 In traditional remedies ​​​​​​: Ancient documents mention pears in medical prescriptions. They were used traditionally for diverse applications, such as respiratory symptom relievers, fever management, inflammation treatment and alcohol hangovers. Jun Heo, a royal physician, described the usage of pears in his Korean traditional medical book in 1613. Check out this English translation (Hong et al. 2021)

Quick Food Science

Pears contain a complex collection of compounds, including:

Key nutrients

  • Dietary fibres, like cellulose, hemicellulose and pectin
  • Vitamins, especially vitamin C
  • Minerals, including potassium, magnesium and calcium


  • Arbutin
  • Phenolic acids like chlorogenic acid
  • Flavonoids like quercetin & epicatechin
  • Triterpenoids like ursolic & oleanolic acids

Triter-what? These compounds are interesting for their potential beneficial effects. In cell and animal studies, they showed antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer activities. (Hong et al. 2021)

What makes pears special: They are especially rich in insoluble dietary fibres. (Reiland et al. 2015)

In the human body

What about when we eat them as part of our diet?

Eating a few pears a week may support our health:

  • Type 2 diabetes prevention – Eating pears & apples regularly was associated with an 18% reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, as per a meta-analysis. (Guo et al. 2017)
  • Gut health – People who ate pears, apples and berries regularly showed a greater gut microbiome diversity. (Jennings et al. 2021)
  • Heart Health – Linked to reduced pulse pressure and lower risk of heart disease mortality, as per a meta-analysis and a large cohort study (Gayer et al. 2019; Jennings et al. 2021)
  • Brain Health – Linked to a decreased risk of cerebrovascular disease, including stroke, as per a meta-analysis. (Gayer et al. 2019)

Studies usually look at pears and apples together because they’re quite similar in composition.

How many? Positive results were found for a few pears & apples every week – ranging from 1-2 portions per day to 3-5 per week, alongside a variety of fruits and vegetables.

How does it work? Researchers think that an eating pattern including pears could support good health by:

  • Improving the diversity and composition of the gut microbiome
  • Supporting antioxidant defence
  • Regulating inflammation

The bigger picture: Nutrition studies are challenging. These results found a connection between eating pears and health, but it does not mean that pears are causing health. Looking at what we eat is complex – many factors could be influencing these results and more studies are needed on pears specifically.

One of your fruit options: Pears can be one of your weekly fruits for their taste, texture and health-supporting potential. Eat them alongside a variety of other foods.


Spotting pear trees: Pear trees are grown on various farms across the UK. Some varieties can tolerate cold temperatures. Keep an eye out for their grey-brown bark, featuring a square pattern. The fruits grow on long stalks and ripen to a golden yellow colour with sweet, grainy-textured flesh. Wild pears can be found growing in hedges, woodland margins, old gardens and waste ground. They easily spread through seed dispersal and discarded fruit cores. (Woodland Trust)

The future of pear growing is on a knife edge: A recent survey by the British Grower Association revealed that 150,000 apple and pear trees have been cancelled this season, putting the future of UK apple and pear growing in doubt.

Why it’s happening: According to the British Grower Association, the main reason is that supermarkets aren’t paying enough for the fruit, which makes it hard for farmers to make a profit. Although the cost of picking, energy, haulage, and packaging has gone up by 23%, the amount farmers get paid by retailers has remained almost static. British growers only receive a 0.8% increase from supermarkets each year, despite a report recommending a 12% increase in return.

Why it matters: Losing British apple and pear trees is an issue for growers and food security, but also biodiversity in our countryside. Apple and pear orchards are a sustainability success story, with most growers working with local beekeepers, having wildflower leys on headlands, and keeping grass margins that aren’t cut or travelled.

As consumers, we can:

  • Check the label and choose British apples and pears
  • Eat an apple and pear a day
  • Shop from local British farmers if you can

Read more in this Press Release published by the organisation of British apple and pear growers

Tasty Tips

Choosing pears: Pears are best enjoyed in the fall and winter months from September through to February. Choose them in their whole form, with the skin on.

My favourite ways to eat pears:

  • As a quick snack – Eat whole straight from the fruit bowl with nut butter, nuts & seeds or yoghurt.
  • In a salad – Try them with mixed greens, walnuts and a vinaigrette.
  • In a soup – Yes, a soup! Add 1 or 2 with onions, sweet potatoes, leeks, stock & spices for a naturally sweet kick!
  • As a dessert – You can stew pears by simmering them in water, vanilla, orange zest, cinnamon and star anise until tender. Serve with nuts, melted dark chocolate and yoghurt.

Spiced Pear and Almond Overnight Oats

Apple and Blackberry Granola Bowl

Found this interesting?

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Key takeaways

Dive deeper

Reviews: Reiland et al. Nutr Today. 2015Hong et al. BMC Complement Med Ther. 2021

Type 2 diabetes: Guo et al. Food & function. 2017

Cardiovascular health & Brain health: Gayer et al. Current Developments in Nutrition. 2019Jennings et al. Hypertension. 2021

by Dr Rupy Aujla


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