An Easy Guide to Picking the Best Produce

Food Budgets

Welcome back to the collaboration between Mint and Brewing Happiness. I’m Haley, the girl behind Brewing Happiness – a blog about celebrating the small healthy choices we make in our lives, complete with recipes for everybody! I’m here to give you tips on living a healthy, happy life on a budget.

With spring just around the corner, I thought this would be a good time to give you a guide on how to select your produce and know what is ripe. Soon there will be an abundance of produce on the shelves, and it’s often an overwhelming job to figure out which to take home with you. Never fear! I’ve put together an easy guide to help you quickly decipher this when you are in the store.

Obviously each fruit or vegetable is going to be slightly different, and the endless heirloom varieties make it difficult to make hard and fast rules, but I have done my best to give you a general guide that works for most produce, along with specific examples to make it even easier. Let’s start with fruit!

An Easy Guide to Picking the Best Produce

FRUIT

1. Smell it. When fruit is at its peak ripeness it will smell very sweet and fruity. So don’t be afraid to get up close and personal with your produce and smell it before you buy it. Best fruits to smell: cantaloupe, peaches, nectarines, pineapple, berries, and citrus fruits.

2. Squeeze it. Gently squeezing a fruit can help you decide if it’s ripe. With almost all fruit, you want them to be slightly soft but not mushy. If it’s too hard, it’s definitely not ripe enough. Best fruits to squeeze: lemons, limes, stone fruit, kiwis, mangos, avocados and apricots.

3. Weigh it. Because of the water content of fruit it is often true that, the heavier the fruit is the riper it is. I often will hold two of the same kind of fruit in each of my hands to compare weight. The heavier one wins. Best fruits to weigh: watermelons, pineapple, grapefruits, grapes, oranges, apples and pomegranates.

4. Check the skin. You want to look out for discoloration, cracks, or bruises on the skin of your fruit. A uniform, vibrant color usually indicates that the produce is ripe and ready to eat. Best fruits to check the skin: bananas, pears, berries, figs, and apples.

5. Check the bottom of the basket. If you are buying fruits like berries, cherries, or figs that come in cartons – be sure to check the bottom of the basket to ensure that all of the produce is fresh!

BONUS FRUIT TIPS

  • Thumping your apples and watermelons to see which make the loudest sound, is another great way to gauge if they are ripe!
  • Try pulling a leaf out of the top of your pineapple; if it easily is removed it is probably ripe!

VEGETABLES

1. Check the leaves. Bright, vibrant green leaves are a good indicator that your vegetables are fresh. The fresher the leaves, the fresher the produce. Best veggies to check the leaves: carrots, beets, radish, and lettuce.

2. Check the color. Like with fruit, a uniform, vibrant color is optimal when buying vegetables. Hints of green can indicate that the produce is not ripe enough. Hints of brown can indicate that the produce is too ripe. Best veggies to check the color: asparagus, celery, cucumbers, kale, peas, tomatoes, and rhubarb.

3. Check its crispness. Does the skin feel firm to you? Does it snap if you break it? Those are great indicators that a vegetable is fresh and ripe! Best veggies to check the crispness: green beans, scallions, peppers, lettuce, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, brussels sprouts, and asparagus.

Speed Up the Ripening Process

If you bought some produce that is slightly under ripe, but you want to eat it ASAP, the best way to speed up the ripening process is to place your produce in a paper bag on your kitchen counter. This will help to increase the levels of ethylene gas, and encourage the produce to ripen. This method works best for unripe avocados, bananas, tomatoes, peaches, etc.

Slow Down the Ripening Process

It is hard to slow down the ripening process, but storing your produce in the refrigerator inside the proper crisper drawer or inside airtight storage will help. This works for almost all produce – apples, melons, avocados, stone fruit, and most veggies.

Next time you’re in the grocery store, hopefully this guide helps you confidently select the best produce. It really is much simpler than you might imagine. Go forth and produce!

Follow along!

Over the next few months I’ll be covering a variety of ways to be healthy on a budget. Keep an eye out for those and head over to Brewing Happiness for healthy recipe inspiration in the meantime!

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