Choosing perfectly ripe produce can feel like a game of Russian Roulette. There’s nothing like picking up a beautiful looking watermelon to find it mealy inside when you cut into it.
One of the main things to remember when handling produce is to be gentle. If you bruise it, you buy it! I’m kidding. That would be a horrible practice.
A good rule of thumb when selecting produce is to check the surface of the fruit or vegetable for flaws, gently squeeze and use your nose to guide you.
Avocados should have a darker skin and should be soft– but not too soft– when you gently squeeze them. If they’re too hard, you can always speed up the ripening process by putting them in a paper bag for a day or two. On the other hand, you can keep them from ripening too fast by placing them in the refrigerator.
If you’re shopping at a farmers’ market, don’t be afraid to ask for a sample.
Berries can be tricky, especially during the summer months. Mold is the thing to watch for when choosing berries, especially raspberries or blackberries, which are more delicate. Use your nose to detect unseen mold and try to buy berries in paper containers during peak season.
Cantaloupes and other melons should have a scent to them. If you push along the end opposite where the stem or vine was, you should be able to tell what type of melon it is by its scent. Watermelons are a bit different though, as they don’t have a scent. Look for ones that are heavy and avoid flat sides.
Citrus fruits that are too hard will probably not be juicy. Look for ones that are heavy and have a bit of give to them when you squeeze them.
Tomatoes should be brightly colored and firm. Storing them at room temperature keeps the flavors from going bland.
Peppers should have a smooth skin and be firm. They should not feel rubbery if you squeeze them gently.
Choosing perfectly ripe produce can feel like a game of Russian Roulette.
Wrinkles and sprouts are signs of a bad potato. If you can, buy potatoes individually instead of prepackaged, so you know what you’re getting. Store in a cool, dark place.
Zucchini should be firm and smooth. You can tell how fresh or not, a zucchini or summer squash is by examining the tip. Don’t buy them if they’re squishy or dry.
If you’re shopping at a farmers’ market, don’t be afraid to ask for a sample. Many farmers are willing to let you taste before you buy. If you’re at the grocery store, seek out an employee or the produce manager if you have questions or print off this handy guide from Martha Stewart.
Get more tips from the University of Maryland Extension: