by GRACE HIRDES
We all know the struggle of picking out produce. Is it not ripe enough, will it be rotten in a few days, or is it just perfect so that it melts in your mouth? For most of us, selecting fruit is hit and miss. That’s why we’ve put together a few tips to help you pick the perfect produce.
Avocados are different from most produce because they mature before picking but still are not ready to eat. They must be softened off the tree. To determine when the fruit is soft enough to eat, hold the fruit in the palm of the hand and gently squeeze with all fingers. If the flesh gives with slight pressure, it is ready to enjoy. Do not press fruit with your thumb. This results in discoloration and bruised spots.
With some of the thicker-skinned or hard-shelled types, softness may not be easily determined. Remove the button at the stem and insert a toothpick into the opening. If the meat is soft, the fruit is ready to eat.
A ripe star fruit will be firm to the touch, have a bright yellow color, and may have slightly browned edges. Occasional patches of green are okay, but if a star fruit is mostly green in color, it means it’s not ripe.
Unlike Avocados, lychees do not continue to ripen once picked. Most lychee varieties are ripe when the skin turns pink or red. So when you go to choose yours, choose the fruit that is firm and springy, with lush red or pink skin. This is a good sign that you’ll have a great-tasting lychee.
Interestingly, passion fruit isn’t harvested from the vine but is actually ready to eat when it falls off the plant. You will know it is time to harvest when fruits are plump, have a slight give, and are fully colored. In the yellow forms, the color is deeply golden, and the purple fruits will be nearly black. Slightly wrinkled fruits are super ripe and will have a sweeter taste than the smooth-skinned passion fruit. The ripest fruits will simply drop off the vine, so keep the area under your plant clear to facilitate finding the fruit. Fruits that are still on the vine and have changed from green to purple or yellow are also ripe and may be picked straight from the tree. Green passion fruit won’t ripen fully off the vine but ripe fruits will develop a deeper, sweeter flavor if left uneaten for several days.
You can spot a good watermelon when the underside or belly of the fruit turns from a greenish white to buttery yellow or cream. This color change is especially pronounced on the dark green-skinned varieties. In addition, the fruit tends to lose its slick appearance on top and becomes dull when ripe. For most people, thumping or tapping the melon is generally not a good indicator of ripeness. Rapping an immature melon with your knuckles produces a metallic ring. A ripe melon gives off a hollow or dull ring. While experienced home gardeners may be able to determine the maturity of watermelons using the thump test, most individuals will have difficulty differentiating between the sounds.
First, check how the tomato looks on the outside. The best tomatoes are completely free of blemishes and bruises and should be a deep, bright red. Any tomato that looks dull or pale is going to be lackluster. Steer clear of any discolorations even a small black spot can mean hidden rot on the inside. Artificially ripened tomatoes are bland, so for the best grocery store tomatoes, look for the phrase “vine-ripened” or find a farmer’s market where you can buy from local growers. Second, test how the tomato feels. A good tomato is firm enough to resist pressure, but not so hard that it doesn’t react to your touch. Tomatoes that are no longer fresh will feel unnaturally soft all over and are days away from turning into piles of goo. Juicier tomatoes are denser, while unripe tomatoes feel a little too light. Finally, test the tomato for its scent. Smell the tomato up by the stem; it should have a strong, sweet, earthy odor. The more fragrant a tomato is, the more flavorful it will be.
Peppers are unique because you can harvest them at any point after they hit the maturity stage. For instance, you can pick a Czech Black pepper during the purple/black stage or when it turns ruby red, and it will still be delicious! Pick the peppers when they are the size and color you want, and make sure they are firm.
Larger zucchini tend to be watery and flavorless, with pulpy insides and large seeds. Stay away! Smaller is better, so try to find one no larger than a regular-sized flashlight. Zucchini can be green, yellow, or white, but always look for a vibrant, rich color. Also, Look for zucchini that still have a good chunk of the stem attached as those ones will last longer.
When choosing cucumbers, look for a medium green or dark green color, no matter the size. The color should be even all over, not splotchy or mottled. Second, feel the cucumber to make sure it is firm and doesn’t feel spongy. It should not bend in any way and should be firm throughout. You want to look for cucumbers that have rounded ends. Lastly, look for smaller cucumbers. The smaller cucumbers contain fewer seeds and the seeds are generally very tiny. For eating in salads or alone, you definitely want as few seeds as possible. Tip: Smaller cucumbers are also crisper.
Now that you have an idea of what to look for when choosing your produce, visit your local farmer’s market this weekend and see what goodies you can find.