Asian pears, as the name suggests, are native to countries in Asia. First discovered over 2,000 years ago in China, more than 3,000 cultivars are currently grown. Asian Pears were introduced to the United States 200 years ago as ornamentals and later used to hybridize with European pears to grant resistance to fire blight. However, it was only in the 1980s that they began to appear in farmers markets around the country. The fruit, however, is very delicate and needs to be hand-tended, which prevents them from reaching the commercial volumes of other pears.
Asian pears look more like apples, but they are true pears. They also can have considerable variation in skin: some kinds have a smooth skin, and even even though they usually have a sandy brown color, they can come in various shades of yellow, green and reddish.
Asian pears are ready to eat as soon as we get them from the farm – they are picked when they are ripe. Asian pears are always firm, even when ripe, unlike other types of pears which become softer as time goes by. If you are not going to get to them quickly, keep asian pears in the refrigerator or they will continue to ripen after picking.
The health benefits of Asian pears are many: they are rich in Fiber (one single pear provides around 20 percent of your daily intake), Potassium, Vitamin K and Copper, and Vitamin C. They are also being used in traditional Chinese medicine as a cure for coughs and bronchial ailments (Asian Pear and honey cough remedy here).
Asian pears have a high-water content and a crisp, grainy texture—very different from the European varieties—and are therefore not generally baked in pies or made into jams. However, because they retain their crunchy texture when cooked, they are great when used in savory dishes and eaten fresh.