With smooth, buttery flesh and flowery flavor, the pear excels in taste and versatility. More than 5,000 varieties exist, including brown-skinned Bosc, ruby d’Anjou, rotund Comice, and petite Seckel. All pears ripen better off the tree, so don’t worry if they’re hard at the store. It’s best if they have some fragrance and no blemishes. Ripen at room temperature until the stem end gives slightly to gentle pressure. Refrigerate when ripe.

Pears wonderfully complement sharp-flavored foods, such as pungent cheeses. On a pizza crust, top sliced red onion with thinly sliced, peeled pear, arugula, and brie or goat cheese; sprinkle with fresh thyme. Bake in a 400-degree oven until lightly browned. Or simply serve sliced pears on a cheese board alongside a wedge of blue or sharp cheddar.

A classic in pies and cobblers, experiment with pears in cake and muffin batters, too. Use pear slices instead of pineapple for your favorite upside-down cake, and add chopped pears to apple-cinnamon muffin or banana bread batter.

To roast pears, halve and remove seeds (use a melon baller to remove the core, making a larger cavity if you plan to fill it). Brush all over with melted butter, then place on a baking sheet and broil 4 minutes, until starting to brown; turn and broil other side. Fill cavity with vanilla yogurt and granola or toasted nuts for a tasty breakfast. –Elisa Bosley