When it comes to choosing the freshest fruit and vegetables it’s all about your senses – sight, touch and smell. I’d like to say taste too, but there would be a few angry grocers and store customers if there was a nibble out of the produce out on display. Of course, the occasional grape is taste-tested, but there would be few and far between items that you can opt for ‘try before you buy’.
So here’s a list of ten produce items with tips and tricks for selecting the freshest fruit and vegetables.
Normally you will find avocados at all different stages of ripeness for your selection. Always make sure you choose your avocado based on when you will actually use it. If you are not using it for a few days, pick one that is still firm and the skin ‘green’ in colour – that way by the time you need it, it shouldn’t be overripe and have brown spots on the inside. Need one for immediate use? Then look for avocados that have more of a dark green/brown skin colour and by gently applying pressure at the tip of the avocado if it yields to your touch, then it should be good to go. Too squishy to touch most likely means it is overripe or has been handled and ‘squish tested’ a little too much.
A bit like avocados, you should always buy your bananas based on when you are going to consume them. If you buy a ripe yellow skinned bunch, chances are you might not have eaten them all before they start to go brown. I like to buy a mix of green skinned and yellow skinned bananas, so the green bananas have a chance to ripen over the course of the week. Don’t be afraid to pick up bananas with brown flecks on the skin – these are often the most delicious as the banana has had a chance to develop more flavour. If you find yourself with a couple of very brown, overripe bananas, these will make an amazing sweet banana bread loaf. Or peel and chop them and put in zip lock bags in the freezer to be used in smoothies.
Make sure the carrots you are selecting are bright in colour, firm and that they do not bend. If the carrot bends with gentle pressure or appears soft it usually means they are already on their way to expiring and have lost valuable vitamins and minerals.
These are relatively easy to pick. If they look nice and easily snap in half, they are perfect. Once they start to go limp and bend under pressure (instead of snapping), definitely avoid them as they are passed their prime.
Another fruit where your nose is your best friend is the perfectly ripe mango which will emit a beautiful sweet aroma and is slightly soft when you apply a little finger pressure.
If an onion is starting to sprout shoots, then it is usually on its way out. Look for firm onions that don’t have an overpowering odour. Although yes onions do smell and often make you cry when cutting them up – an extremely strong odour can denote it’s a little (or a lot) overripe.
Just because it might look bright in colour, doesn’t mean it has the most flavour. Make sure you give the pineapple a sniff test and if you get a yummy, fragrant delight to your senses it should be ripe for the picking. If the leaves are firm and pull of easily, this also usually means it is ready to go.
Look for firm, smooth skins when it comes to potatoes. If they have sprouts growing out of them, it can mean they are on their way to expiring (or may have already). Always store them unwrapped in a dry and dark place like a wooden potato bin – where only potato varieties are stored.
Raspberries & Strawberries
The best tip I ever received for strawberries and raspberries was ‘to go with your nose’. Smell the berries and if you get a lovely fragrant aroma, it usually means they will be full of flavour. I’ve often found the bolder the red colour, the more delicious they are. It is best to always gently turn the container upside down to check for spoilage (or lift it above your eye line to look at the base), as they are very fragile and can bruise easily.
If a tomato is bright in colour, has a smooth texture and is slightly soft to touch it is fairly safe to assume it is ripe and ready for consumption. When choosing punnets of grape, cherry and the like type of tomato varieties, like berries, it is best to look at the contents on the bottom of the container to make sure there is no bruising or mould.
Always remember, if in doubt ask your local grocer or staff in the supermarket. They will no doubt have some expert advice and tips to pass on when it comes to selecting the freshest produce.