There are over 5,000 varieties of pears grown throughout the world in temperate climates. France is known for its superior pears and in the United States most of the crop comes from California, Oregon and Washington. Mother Nature protected the easily bruised pear by making it better when picked while still hard. Unlike most fruit, it improves in both texture and flavor after it's picked. Pears range in shape from spherical to bell-shaped and in color from celadon green to golden yellow to tawny red. Ripe pears are juicy and, depending on the variety, can range in flavor from spicy to sweet to tart-sweet. Pears are in season from late July to early spring, depending on the variety. Choose those that are fragrant and free of blemishes and soft spots. Store at room temperature until ripe; refrigerate ripe fruit. It's not necessary to peel pears before using, but, if they are peeled, they should be dipped in acidulated water to prevent the flesh from browning. For cooking, choose fruit that is still quite firm. Pears are also available dried as well as canned in either water, sugar syrup or their natural juice. They contain small amounts of phosphorus and vitamin A.