Ingredient Spotlight: Seckel Pears

Rebekah's Forelle Pear Cake recipe from earlier this week reminded me that it's Seckel pear season. Like Forelles, Seckels are diminutive pears, usually two or three bites each. From September through January, I can usually find them in my local markets here in California. And when I do, I always grab a few for their handy size, yes, but also for their firm flesh and super sweet pear flavor.

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Of the commercially grown pears, Seckels are the smallest and are also considered to be the only true American variety. The story is that they were discovered growing wild in the early nineteenth century near Philadelphia by a farmer named Seckel.

Seckels are deep green in color (some say olive green) usually with a bit of red blush. They'll ripen nicely if kept out of the refrigerator (from the middle, like all pears) - you can tell they're ready if the area around the stem gives slightly if very gently pressed.

We featured these pears here a few years ago, but here's a few more reasons why you should try Seckel pears:

• great for lunch and bento boxes
• perfect served whole or cut in half for a cheese platter
• Seckels can be canned whole - so pretty!
• slice in half and place cut side down for pear upside down cake or pear tart tartin
• poached whole, they would look (and taste) amazing ringing a roast pork or chicken
• Martha Stewart has a recipe for Sugared Seckel Pears
• this Maple Butter Baked Seckel Pear recipe sounds good, too

Related: Quick Dessert Recipe: Roasted Pears with Lemon Stilton, Walnuts and Honey

(Images: Dana Velden)