How to Buy Produce
What should you look for when shopping for the perfect melon or pineapple? Rachael sorts the myths from the facts to make sure your next trip to the produce aisle is fruitful!
Stone Fruits (peaches, apricots, nectarines)
"At the beginning and end of every season they're all hard as a rock," Rachael explains. "You can either take them home and sugar them or put a little bit of acid on them (lemon juice) and that will make them taste ripe even though they're not yet. Or put them in a brown paper bag for a couple of days and they'll get just peachy for ya!"
You want to go for a nice dark green color -- not a light green color -- and you want variegations of yellow and white going through the watermelon. It should be very heavy and sound hollow when you knock on it. Check out the end with the stem, if it has any color it should not be white as that is a sign that the fruit is not ripe yet. If it's evenly colored or is yellow or green, you're good to go.
When you're picking strawberries, go for the deepest, darkest colors. If they have a lot of white still around the tops they're not ready yet.
Important note for any berries -- Do not wash them off until you're ready to serve and eat them. If you wash them off, mold will grow faster on the fruit. Also, when shopping for berries always give a good look throughout the package to make sure all of the fruit looks good, not just the pieces seen from the top of the container.
The stems, even on red or black seedless grapes should be green, not brown. If they're brown, the grapes are old. Another way to check is to give the stem a gentle shake or a little bounce. If half of the grapes fall off, they're old. They're on their way to raisin land!
Look for one with a nice green top, not something brown or shriveled up. You want a pineapple that's very bright in color with a mixture of yellows and greens, and no white spots or areas where it is fading to brown. And, the eyes along the side should be the same size at the top as they are on the bottom. That way it should be perfectly sweet from top to bottom and the whole pineapple will be delicious. If the color looks good, give it a squeeze and see that it is firm, with a little give to it.
Lemons and limes
You want them to have a little bit of a give. Don't go for rock hard fruit and figure they're full of juice. Actually, it's the opposite. When they have a little bit of give to them they're ready to give juice!
Can't find one? If all the lemons and limes at the store don't look good, just pop 'em in the microwave for 10 seconds on high. It will turn something hard into a very juicy and voluptuous citrus! And if you're going to juice the fruit, press down and roll it on the counter to get the juices flowing.
The skin should be dark and they should just give to light pressure. You don't want one where you can push your thumb all the way in leaving an indentation. If none of them feel 'guacamole-esque' to you, do as you would with stone fruit -- put them in a brown paper sack for a day or two and you'll be good to go.
"It's a personal thing -- I actually like a firm tomato, a slightly under-ripe tomato with nice bite to it," Rachael says. "The texture stays better if you leave them outside the refrigerator. If you keep them in the fridge, you'll get that grainy thing going on." But hey, if you prefer them that way feel free to keep them chilled!
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Press your thumb into the stem end to feel if it's soft -- if it is, it's ripe. Also, give it a good sniff to see if it smells sweet, which also means it's ripe. Or, if you aren't planning on eating it right away, chose a melon that's not quite ready and let it sit on the counter to ripen.
They should be yellow without any dark spots. Place them in the fridge to stop the ripening process, although the peel will turn black.
They should be bright and firm with no bumps or bruises.
Look for even coloring, and fruit that is well rounded and firm.
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