Dried pears are a healthy between-meal snack. They contain many vitamins and minerals. When pears are dried, they take on a brownish color. Most dried pears sold commercially are therefore treated with sulfur dioxide to prevent this discoloration. However, sulfur dioxide is not absolutely necessary to maintain flavor and increase shelf life. For more information on pears, please follow this link: Pears.
Pear trees are in the genus Pyrus and the family Rosaceae. Several species are used for their edible fruit, while many others are raised as ornamental trees. General information on pears can be found here.
Pears contain 0.3% fat, 12% carbohydrates, and 0.5% protein. They also contain vitamin A and C and vitamins in the B group, as well as the minerals calcium, magnesium, iron, sodium and potassium.
Nutritional information for dried pears:
“Dried pears are also rich in vitamins (A, B1, B2, B3, B5, and B6) and minerals (calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, copper, and manganese) and contain 1050 kJ (250 cal) and about 1 to 5 g of protein in a 100 g serving.*”
Dried pears are usually used as an ingredient in desserts and pastries. In Austria, they are added to a pear liquor called Kletzenlikör.
From Wikipedia: “Fruits can be dried whole (e.g., grapes, berries, apricot, plum), in halves, or as slices, (e.g., mango, papaya, kiwi). Alternatively they can be chopped after drying (e.g., dates), made into pastes, or concentrated juices. The residual moisture content can vary from small (3 – 8%) to substantial (16 – 18%), depending on the type of fruit. Fruits can also be dried in puree form, as leather, or as a powder, by spray of drum drying. They can be freeze dried. Fresh fruit is frozen and placed in a drying chamber under vacuum. Heat is applied and water evaporates from the fruit while still frozen. The fruit becomes very light and crispy and retains much of its original flavor. Dried fruit is widely used by the confectionery, baking, and sweets industries. Food manufacturing plants use dried fruits in various sauces, soups, marinades, garnishes, puddings, and food for infants and children. ...
The high drying and processing temperatures, the intrinsic low pH of the fruit, the low water activity (moisture content) and the presence of natural antimicrobial compounds in dried fruit make them a remarkably stable food. There is no known incident of a food-borne illness related to dried fruit.”
“All studies assessing the Glycemic Index (GI) of dried fruit show that they are low to moderate GI foods and that the "insulinresponse" is proportional to their GI. Factors thought to contribute to this glycemic response include the viscous texture of dried fruits when chewed; their whole food matrix; the presence of phenolic compounds and organic acids and the type of sugar present (about 50% fructose in most traditional dried fruit).”
“Sulfur dioxide is used as an antioxidant in some dried fruits to protect their color and flavor. For example, in golden raisins, dried peaches, apples and apricots sulfur dioxide is used to keep them from losing their light color by blocking browning reactions that darken fruit and alter their flavor. Over the years, sulfur dioxide and sulfites have been used by many populations for a variety of purposes. Sulfur dioxide was first employed as a food additive in 1664, and was later approved for such use in the United States as far back as the 1800s.
Sulfur dioxide, while harmless to healthy individuals, can induce asthma when inhaled or ingested by sensitive people. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) estimates that one out of a hundred people is sulfite-sensitive (allergic), and about 5% of asthmatics are also at risk of suffering an adverse reaction. Given that about 10% of the population suffers from asthma, this figure translates to 0.5% of the whole population with potential for sulfite-sensitivity. These individuals make up the subgroup of greatest concern and are largely aware of the need to avoid sulfite-containing foods. Consequently, the FDA requires food manufactures and processors to disclose the presence of sulfiting agents in concentrations of at least 10 parts per million.”
“Pears can be dried at temperatures from 0 to 70°C. If the temperature is too high, dried fruit more quickly loses its taste and flavor. And some of the vitamins are destroyed at temperatures as low as 40°C.*”
Note (italics): * = Translation from a German Wikipedia entry