Don’t bruise that perfect fruit!

There may be nothing better than getting a sweet treat in the mail. And this holiday season, care packages may have to replace hugs more than ever before. Instead of adding to your loved one's cookie pile, consider sending something fresh, juicy, and seasonal that will certainly brighten a cold winter day: Pears. There's a reason why many folks have been gifting them for decades—they're healthy, simple to eat (no prep work needed!), and can certainly alleviate some holiday (or 2020-related) stress. 

Pears' Symbolism in Gift-Giving

"In ancient China, people believed that pears represented immortality and prosperity because pear trees live for a long time. In Korea, the pear symbolizes grace and nobility, and the pear tree is a symbol of comfort," says Neil Ferguson, creative marketing manager for the Pear Bureau Northwest. "Sending someone pears this holiday season can be a simple—yet very meaningful—gift, and it's a great way to support U.S. farmers."

Learn how to pack and ship your own pear package below, or order pear gift boxes online from companies like Sincerely Fresh from Stemilt, The Fruit Company, Harry and David, or McCarthy Family Farm

How to Ship Pears 

"Pears are a gentle fruit that can be difficult to ship because they yield under pressure as they begin to ripen," explains Rhea Ortiz, account manager at The Fruit Company of Hood River, Ore. At The Fruit Company, each pear is personally handled and placed within a padded fruit sleeve for protection. High grade cardboard boxes prepared with soft grade craft pads and excelsior add extra padding and protection to the pear.

But a pear in transit is still an active traveler. "During shipment, pears give off ethylene gases which speed up the ripening process," Ortiz adds. To ensure that your pears arrive perfectly, make sure they're shipped in ventilated packaging to control their ripening. In warmer months (or climates), she recommends expedited shipping, but two-day ground is fine if the pears won't be in extreme heat.  

Keeping the pears secure and unable to move is also essential to the packing process. "Most importantly, be sure the fruit can't move inside the box, as the individual pieces of fruit bumping into each other can cause a lot of bruising and other damage. Stems can be sharp, too,"  says Adam McCarthy, USA Pears Grower and farm manager at McCarthy Family Farm in Mount Hood, Ore.  

To add some festive flare—and protection—to your pears, attach twine and gift notes to the stems with well-wishes or fun sayings. Then wrap each individual pear in fun paper or even edible gold leaf before packaging. Enclose a soft homemade craft, a tea towel, or another cushiony object with your pears (a cloth face mask or beanie, perhaps) to add even more padding and spruce to your gift.  

How to Know When a Pear Is Ripe

How do you know that your perfectly shipped pear is ripe? Check the neck, suggest McCarthy.

"To do this, apply gentle pressure near the stem end with your thumb. If it gives into pressure, it is ripe and ready to eat—but don't press too hard," McCarthy says. He recommends letting pears ripen out of the refrigerator and on the counter at room temperature for several days, until they reach your desired softness. "There are a lot of ways to enjoy a delicious winter pear. From those that still have a little crunch and tartness to pears that are entirely ripe, so juicy and sweet that they melt in your mouth. A little practice 'checking the neck' and you will be able to enjoy your pears just the way you prefer." 

Beyond biting into or slicing up a pear, they can also be used for appetizers, like pears with blue cheese and prosciutto or pears with rosemary sugar. Pears pair well with poultry and pork, and can be cooked in savory dishes, like in peanut noodles with chicken and pears or sauteed chicken with sweet potatoes and pears. Sweettooths, or those who have allowed their pears to ripen a little past their prime can also use them in desserts, like these cinnamon poached pears or brown butter vanilla pear pie