How to choose: Unlike most fruits, pears ripen best off the tree, after they’ve been picked. Buy specimens that are smooth, free of bruises, and firm. An unripe pear has a bright and shiny skin; a ripe one looks matte.
How to store: Stand pears, unwashed (moisture speeds decay), on their bottoms and let them ripen at room temperature. To hasten the process, place one in a pierced paper bag with an apple, which releases ethylene, a gas that helps ripen certain fruits and vegetables. Ripe pears should be refrigerated.
Shelf life: Pears take 2 to 5 days to ripen at home. Fruit that is ready to eat will give a little near the stem when pressed with your thumb and should be used within 2 to 3 days. If the pear is soft around the middle, it may be too late.
Best uses: If you’re serving uncooked pears, cut them just before using them. Sprinkle the flesh with lemon juice to prevent browning. Pears also take well to baking, roasting, or sautéing. To poach them, peel 4 pears and simmer them gently in 1½ cups red wine and ¾ cup sugar until tender, about 25 minutes.