The season of the pear has arrived.

The season of the pear has arrived.

I don't view this phenomenon as one of Mother Nature's afterthoughts, but rather her special gift to all who gutted it through the more chaotic times of summer's high season for harvest.

To experience perfection in pears, however, it's important to know that unlike other tree fruit, "tree-ripened" is not a phrase synonymous with superior quality. Pears achieve their best flavor and smoothest texture when ripened off the tree. A tree-ripened specimen has the tendency to develop an unpleasant sort of graininess and mediocre taste.

Another contrary aspect of pears is that they ripen from the inside outward. Pear purists are forever frustrated with the knowledge that on any given day — if not vigilant to the very moment of perfection — they may miss a pear's peak performance.

Even color change isn't a reliable indicator for great taste and texture since most varieties don't experience it. Hence, the best test for ripeness is to cradle the fruit gently and evaluate its firmness with gentle pressure. When the stem end yields slightly, the pear is ripe. At this state, it also should be giving off a heavenly aroma.

So don't miss the season. Here are several delicious ways to extend it.

Jan Roberts-Dominguez is a Corvallis food writer, cookbook author and artist. Readers can contact her at janrd@proaxis.com or obtain additional recipes and food tips on her blog at www.janrd.com.