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Sometimes when you head to the produce section of the grocery store, you can feel like you’re just staring at a pile of vegetables thinking, “…is this going to taste good when I get it home?”
It’s easier to choose produce when you know what you’re looking for. Here’s a list of some tips and tricks to make sure you’re getting the best.
-Try to choose produce individually instead of purchasing bagged. I find that lots of times when I buy bagged there are a few in there that are too ripe, starting to mold, or just aren’t as flavorful.
-Avoid picking up pre-sliced and pre-cut veggies. They’re easy, but they’re way more expensive than buying whole and doing the job yourself. I love to chop up a bunch of onions, for example, and store them in the freezer: they’re perfect and ready to go for slow cooker meals and stir fries. Plus, the pre-cut veggies are generally not as fresh as the ones you buy whole.
-If you have a farmers’ market that sells truly local produce, head there to really learn what a fresh fruit or vegetable looks like. You can have the farmer teach you and help you decide which items are best. Plus, you can generally get really good deals there, too (lots of them have co-ops available).
How to Choose Produce:
Apples Choose fruit that is very firm when gently pressed (mealy apples are blah for snacking). Make sure there are no bruises.
Avocado If you’re ready to eat it when you buy it, choose one that’s very, very dark green (it will look almost blackish-brown) and feels soft when gently pressed. If you’re going to eat it in a few days, choose one that’s less dark and firmer. Leave it on the counter at room temperature to ripen (you can put it in a paper bag to make it ripen faster).
Bananas Bananas are a fruit that is really sort of up to personal taste. Generally you choose fruit that is solid yellow with no green color and no bruises or brown spots (pick browner bananas to make bread and muffins: their soft flesh and deep flavor will make your baked goods yummy and moist).
Berries Look for fruit that isn’t mushy, leaky, or moldy (that last one is a given). Flip the container over to see that the berries at the bottom are good, too. Look for bright colors (no green or white).
Cantaloupe You can tell a lot by the smell. Get one that smells sweet, but make sure it’s not too fragrant (which could mean it’s overripe). Also, try gently pressing the spot where the stem used to be. If it gives slightly, it’s probably a good one.
Citrus (Lemons, Limes, Oranges & Grapefruits) These fruits should feel heavy for their sizes. Fun fact: Let citrus come to room temperature before juicing (they’ll give you more juice that way).
Corn Feel the corn through the skin to see if the kernels feel plump and even (don’t pick ones that feel like they have kernels missing). The husk should fit tightly around the ear. Also, check out the silk at the top: it should be brownish and almost feel sticky. If the silk is shriveled or dry, it’s likely an old ear of corn.
Cucumbers The skins should be more smooth than wrinkly and the flesh should feel firm. Smaller ones generally have less seeds and a better flavor. Keep them stored in the fridge.
Lettuce Choose bunches that have firm leaves and vibrant color (if it’s too dark, however, that could mean that it’s starting to wilt).
Onions These should be dry with thin and papery skins and should be mold-free (which usually looks like black dirt).
Pears Pears can be tricky because, for me, they’re either way too firm or have tons of bruises. Look for pears that are bruise-free and test their ripeness by gently pressing the top of the fruit near the stem. If it gives slightly, it’s good to eat (you don’t want the rest of the fruit to have this same texture because that may signal that it’s overripe). Store them at room temperature. Speed up the ripening if you need to by placing them in a paper bag.
Peaches The fruit should be really fragrant. Choose peaches that give a little when gently pressed, aren’t bruised, and don’t have any green color.
Peppers Choose peppers that aren’t wrinkly, have thick skin, and have vibrant colors.
Pineapple Pretty much the more yellow a pineapple’s skin is, the riper it is. Look for fruit that has a golden outer color (not green). A good fruit should also smell sweet and fragrant. Also, you know the little segments on the outside of the pineapple that house the spikes? Look for a pineapple that has segments that are even in size all the way from the top of the fruit to the bottom.
Potatoes Avoid wrinkles and look for firm skin and flesh. Also avoid eyes, cuts, and skin with a green color.
Tomatoes The skin should be smooth and the fruit itself should be heavy. The best ones will have consistent coloring with no yellow or green and will be deliciously fragrant. The best tomatoes are the local, in-season ones you get in the summertime.
Watermelon I feel like watermelons have the biggest feeling of “Man, I’ve gotta get this right” when you buy them from the grocery store. They’re either going to be perfect or they’re going to be mealy and unflavorful and there’s not much in-between. So, look for melons that feel heavy for their size. Look around the melon and find the spot where it’s been resting in the field (it’ll be a splotchy area). A ripe melon will have a splotch that’s a creamy, yellow color. Also, thump the melon and listen. A good melon will have a good, hollow sound.
Yellow Squash Smaller ones generally have a better textured flesh than larger ones. It should be firm with smooth skin.
You can use the item search to find deals on your favorite produce at your local grocery store!