Knowing how to select the best fresh produce like a champ is a learned life skill. We’re enthusiastic believers that everybody has what it takes to learn this skill and become master produce shoppers.
That includes you!
Knowing the best way to pick fruit from the supermarket as well as what to avoid are skills that will become second-nature to you in no time.
As always, it starts with the basics.
All About Ripening
First, it’s important to know that not all fruit continues to ripen after harvest.
An extremely common set of misconceptions is that they all either arrive at the store perfectly ripe, or all fruit needs some time to reach peak flavor and texture. Unless you truly understand produce basics (which we hope you will by the end of this article!), it can genuinely feel like a game of luck.
“Will I get good fruit this time around?” is a question we’d like to help you avoid. It doesn’t have to feel like a constant hit-or-miss.
The reality is that fresh fruit isn’t strictly one or the other. Each variety has its own set of ripening rules.
- Never ripens after picking: soft berries, cherries, citrus, grapes, pineapple, watermelon.
- Ripens only after picking: avocados
- Ripens in color, texture, and juiciness, but not sweetness: apricots, blueberries, figs, melons (excluding watermelon) nectarines, passionfruit, peaches, persimmons.
- Gets sweeter after harvest: apples, kiwi, mangos, papayas, pears.
- Ripens in every way after picking: bananas
It’s easy to grab a bunch of green bananas and let them ripen up at home, but it’s important to know that doesn’t work with all fruit. Planning your weekly meals will become much easier while keeping this in mind.
Educate Yourself About Seasonality
When is your number one, all-time favorite fruit in-season? When does the season begin and end?
Knowing the time of year fruit is freshly picked will give you an unmistakable edge when shopping.
Is there a feeling more disappointing than getting home with a pound or two of your favorite fruit, only to realize it’s dull and lifeless in taste?
Our 5 Favorite Produce Life-Hacks
There’s isn’t a single reason not to have a little fun while produce shopping. These tricks will help you have loads of fun while inspecting the love and care put into a particular fruit’s journey to the marketplace.
Don’t rely solely on your eyes: You might not believe it, but sometimes the perfectly-imperfect pieces of fruit are the ones with the best taste. Don’t overlook one simply because it has a scuff or mark, look beyond the skin and apply the wisdom from the other helpful tidbits below.
Smell it: You can also avoid an overreliance on your eyes by smelling the fruit. Smell is often a great indicator of flavor, and we wouldn’t be surprised if you begin recognizing the flavors you love the most. Trust your senses.
The Face Test: The Face Test has been passed around communities for a long time and can be a great way to teach children how to select their own produce. The trick goes like this: squeeze the fruit. If it feels like your cheek, it is most likely past its time. If it feels like your forehead you know it isn’t ripe yet. If the feeling is similar to your nose, you’ve found one that is probably perfect to eat.
Stem: If you’re lucky enough to see that fruit that still has its stem, you’re in luck. The stem is the natural clock that starts ticking as soon as the fruit has been picked and it has some stories to tell.
Here’s what to look for:
- Green stem with ripe fruit:
You’ve got yourself a winner. Snatch it up…quickly! This means that it’s ripe.
- Green stem with a hard piece of fruit:
The fruit was picked too early and could possibly become mealy when ripe.
- Shriveled or dried out stem:
This indicates that the fruit was picked quite some time ago, and could possibly be lacking the flavor and texture of fresh fruit.
Know the Difference between bruises and sugar spots: Did you know that some fruits (like peaches, for example) have a tendency to develop what we call sugar spots? These darker, softer, areas of the fruit are intensely sweeter than the rest of its body and are highly sought after.
Don’t get scared off by “bruises” and “scuffs” on your fruit. Teach yourself to pick with your senses rather than your eyes.
This is the Most Important Thing: Never Give Up on Your Search!
We cannot stress this enough. Don’t ever give up!
There will come a day that you’re shopping for fresh fruit like a boss! Although the learning curve can feel overwhelming, you’ll be a master produce picker in no time.