Nashi refers to the types of pears that have been traditionally cultivated in Japan. These pears are sometimes referred to as wa-nashi (和梨) which translates to Japanese pears. The production of wa-nashi has some very ancient roots that can be traced back to the first waves of settlers that came from Korea in the 3rd century (C.E). Along with the Japanese chestnut and turnip, it was one of the very first crop to be cultivated.
It is still produced extensively, mainly in central Japan. The Japanese nashi varieties are bigger than the average apple, and generally crispier, harder and more watery than the western pears.
Three Major Types Of Nashi In Japan
There is a wide variety of Nashi pears being produced in Japan, but here are the three most popular ones.
Kosui nashi is the most produced pear in Japan, accounting for 34% of the market. It has a low acidity and high sugar content.
The other major type of Japanese nashi is the hosui. It is similar to the kosui in taste and texture but it is slightly bigger and it can be kept a for a longer time. Hosui represents 30% of the nashi production of the country.
Nijuseki, which means "20th century" is a new type of nashi that has been gaining in popularity in recent years. It now accounts for 13% of the current market share. It's very juicy, has a good balance of sweetness and acidity and is said to be the most refreshing.
How Japanese People Consume The Nashi Pear
Although the peel is perfectly edible, in Japan, the nashi is usually eaten without it. Most commonly, people cut the pear into several pieces and place it on a nice plate. It's quite unusual to eat it as is, in hand, without cutting it.
Another popular way to consume nashi pears is in jelly desserts. You can find these sold in convenience stores but also at expensive fruit parlors.
Pear jelly (and fruit jelly in general) in Japan is often sold in boxed assortments meant to be given as gifts.
Because of the influence of western cuisine, nashi pears are sometimes used as an ingredient for western style desserts. Nashi pear tarts are quite popular in Japan. You might find them in high-end patissier stores.