Everyone loves fresh fruit and veggies, right? Of course, especially as we’re heading toward summer. But there are so many kinds available at so many different times of year, how do you pick fresh produce when it’s just right? Never fear. It all really comes down to paying attention to a few simple factors: Color, texture, smell and season.
Flickr user Jevgenijs Slihto
We all know the basics of this – like when bananas are green, they’re not ripe yet. But there’s more to color in fresh produce that you should know about. You always want to look for bright, bold color in produce that is clearly what the fruit is supposed to be colored – red in tomatoes or apples, green in peas or zucchini, etc. Anything that grows on a tree? It’s ripe if it’s evenly colored with no dark spots.
But there are exceptions – for example, peaches often have brown spots where the sun has been shining on it, and these are the extra-sugary yummy parts.
Flickr user Bruce Tuten
Aroma is a great indicator of freshness in fruit. A really strong smell in fruit sounds pleasant, obviously, but in fact it probably means the fruit is overripe and won’t be yummy for much longer. Ideally you’re looking for a light, sweet smell. And if fruit ever smells sour? Back away.
As far as veggies, there’s not as much of a range of smells to indicate ripeness (have you ever really gotten a strong smell from a raw potato?), but if there’s any weird or moldy aroma, it’s best left alone.
Flickr user nate steiner
Obviously the general rule of thumb is if a fruit or vegetable is all beat up and bruised, it’s not gonna stay fresh. But there are exceptions for some of the most delicious items. Ever seen a melon with those rough brownish patches? That’s where it was resting on the ground. No biggie! And avocados? If they’re a little soft, they’re juuuuust right, not rotten.
Flickr user Apple and Pear Australia Ltd
This might seem a little obvious, but picking fresh produce at the height of its season is a critical step to making sure it’s delicious and at the peak of its nutrients.
Many fruits hit their ideal season in summer and fall (with the exception of some citrus fruits like tangerines), but various vegetables are in season throughout the year, like squash (in season midwinter), yams (from fall to late winter), and potatoes (from fall to early winter). Here’s an awesome guide to what’s in season any month of the year so you can start planning!
How do you choose your fresh produce? Tell us your tips in the comments below!