All of us are wrong about some things. One thing that I was wrong about for decades was Bosc pears. I ignored them, assuming they were the worst. The pinnacle of peardom, presented as such on special occasions, was the Royal Riviera pear from Harry & David: plump, round, golden, and meltingly tender and juicy. Other pears tried to match that character and were better or worse depending on how closely they missed it.
So I bought Comices (the variety underlying the Royal Rivera brand), and Beurre d’Anjous, and inescapably Bartletts. Sometimes Seckels, with wildly varying results. Why even look at the Boscs, skinny and hard to the touch, with a drab brown emery-board surface? If you bought one and waited long enough, it would become blackened and mushy without ever becoming a soft and gorgeous pear. I assumed someone must like them, for some reason, but I didn’t know who or what that reason must be.
The reason is that Bosc pears are in fact the best pears in the grocery store. They are not an approximation of something better, but are easily and readily themselves. They originated in Europe—either France or Belgium, said Kathy Stephenson of the Pear Bureau Northwest, which markets pears on behalf of the growers of Oregon and Washington—and entered this country in sometime in the mid-1800s.
In Europe, Stephenson said, there are pear varieties that fill in the space intermediate between the Bosc and the Bartlett. But none of those every caught on among the major varieties grown here, so the Bosc remains antique and apart.
The mistake comes from treating it as if it’s one of those other pears, and letting it sit around uneaten. (“I don’t care for the flavor profile when it gets more ripe,” Stephenson said.) The ripeness of Bosc pears is not some narrow window of sweetness before they become grainy mush; they hold their shape and their flesh stays crisp, even as it develops a rich honeyed aroma. They are a hit with the children. Not only are they superior to every other pear on offer, they are also superior to all the apples.