Many find choosing produce to be a tricky endeavor. Just last week I was shopping for groceries and overheard a girl remark, “That is such a great deal on pineapple! I would buy one but I just don’t know how to pick it out!”
Say it ain’t so. I refuse to imagine a world where crisper drawers are left empty and sad.
Produce can be your friend. The day I learned how to pick out produce is still forever etched in my memory. I was standing in the produce aisle, bored out of my mind. Mom had decided it was time for our grocery trip to become a life lesson. I was not a fan. As we walked ever so slowly through the aisles she would pick up a piece of fruit or vegetable and say, “Ok, now see this? You want to look for…” and then go on in detail as I would outwardly groan.
Now I am eternally grateful. To this day, my husband continues to compliment our quality of produce and I owe it all to Mom. I will be forever thankful for the skill she has taught me.
So from my house to yours, here are a few tips on how to pick out the perfect produce:
When it comes to vegetables the rule of thumb is bright, firm, and bruise-free. Bright colored vegetables pack a bigger nutritional punch. Take the time to carefully inspect your vegetables for mold, brown, or bruised spots.
This rule of thumb pairs well with vegetables like peppers, cucumbers, zucchini, summer squash, tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, green beans, and asparagus. For leafy greens, firm is obviously better than soft and wilting.
Corn is everywhere and seems to be the backbone of our food industry. We grew up shucking corn on our back patio surrounded by…you guessed it…corn fields. But the worst feeling is peeling back the husk to discover a moldy surprise. So when you’re in the store, choose your ear of corn by partially peeling back the husk to inspect the inside. It’s ok. The clerk won’t mind. Go for corn kernels that are firm, rich in color with no mold or brown spots. My favorite are the yellow and white kernels because they are oh so juicy!
Oranges & Grapefruits
Speaking of juice, if you’re going for citrus choose ones that are rich in color (grapefruit should have a red tinge to it) with bumps and pores on the outside. Gently squeeze it. You shouldn’t feel any soft spots but your fingers should gently sink into it a little. If it’s heavy and plump, you’ve got a ripe one!
Lemons & Limes
If you’re going to be juicing, this one is the opposite of its orange counterpart. Look for ones with very smooth texture and little to no bumps. The fruit should give in when you squeeze.
These ones are tricky little guys. Choosing one will completely depend on why you need it. Avocados can vary from green to black in color. For guacamole and recipes requiring ripe avocados, choose ones that yield to gentle pressure and are more black than green. However, you don’t want to feel like your fingers are about to poke a hole in it with a gentle squeeze. Recipe Tip: place avocado pits in guacamole before storing to keep from going brown!
For more firm avocados, choose ones that do not give in as easily to pressure. Firm avocados can take 4-5 days to ripen at room temperature. For faster results, place in brown paper bag with a banana or apple.
A melon is another tricky fruit that leaves you feeling reluctantly hopeful. For cantaloupe and honeydew, first inspect the melon for brown, mold, or soft spots and choose one that is not damaged. Then look for the stem end which looks a lot like a “belly button”. Avoid melons where the stem is still attached. Give the button a little push with your thumb. If your finger sinks significantly then it’s a ripe one! For watermelon, give it a good tap. If it sounds hollow, then you’ve found the right one.
Look for pineapple that has no brown or black spots and is starting to get a little yellow from the bottom up. To know whether it’s ripe, grab ahold of the inner leaf and give it a gentle pull. If it plucks right out, it’s ready to be eaten! If it takes a bit of effort to pull, keep looking. You should also get a good whiff of tropical goodness if your nose is close by.
A ripe pomegranate will be deep red in color. When you pick it up it should feel heavy. These babies stain when sliced so open them under water! The fruit will sink to the bottom and the white pith will float to the top to be scooped up and discarded. Easy peasy!
Peaches & Pears
Give these little guys a squeeze and your fingers should sink in nicely. Look for one that is brightly colored and smells delicious! If I had my little way, I’d eat peaches everyday…
This fruit goes bad quickly making you oh so sad. For best results, don’t store in the crisper drawer. Look for ones that are firm, bright in color, with no moldy or brown spots (notice a trend?). Berries still with their stems attached tend to last longer.
And there you have it. Let the produce abound!