Asian pears are called by many names, including sand pear, apple pear and bae li. They carry some of these names because while they are a pear, they have the look of an apple--round and firm to the touch. The flesh is crisp but juicy, both tart and sweet in flavor and low in acid. Asian pears are a source of vitamins C and B2, and iron.
Varieties range in size from the small 20th Century to very large Korean Giant. They are ready during midsummer to fall. The fruit can keep for several months if refrigerated. Once a niche treat, Asian pears are becoming increasingly popular in the mainstream.
Let the fruit ripen on the tree, if possible. This method yields fruit with the best flavor. Asian pears are usually ready to eat when found at the store and do not require additional time to ripen.
Educate yourself about the specific variety of pear you wish to enjoy. Color changes are important to deciding when Asian pears are ripe. Some varieties never change color, while others change from green to brown or green to yellow.
Store the fruit at room temperature, out of direct sunlight if you plan to eat it within 2 to 3 weeks. According to the University of California Extension Service, after that time, the fruit begins to get soft and spongy. Store Asian pears apart from items that produce high levels of ethylene (tomatoes, other fruit).
Handle fruits delicately. Protect fruit during purchase and transport. Even though the pears have a firm feel, the skin is relatively tender. According to the University of California Extension Service, professional growers believe the pear may be even harder to handle properly than some other firm fruits.
Check the skin color. Ripe Japanese pears have yellow or brown skin (or a combination of the two). Chinese pears have a yellowish green color.
Check the skin integrity. The skin should be free of blemishes or bruises and should not be wrinkled or soft. Fruit that is overripe quickly shows signs of damage from even gentle handling. Fruit that lacks the proper ripeness also lacks flavor.
Discard fruits with blackened skin or brown cores. Some varieties begin to decay from the inside. Avoid fruit with shriveling skin or spongy fruit.
Sample the scent of the pear. Asian pears develop a sweet aroma, which is quite pronounced when the fruit is ready to eat. Refrigerated pears do not have as marked a scent.