If you have ever purchased produce only to have it turn moldy or mushy a few days later, the fruits or vegetables you selected may not have been in the best shape to begin with. By selecting the right produce at the grocery store or farmers market, you avoid wasting money while also maximizing the shelf life of your food.
As a general rule of thumb, it’s best to stay away from pre-bagged or pre-cut produce. Pre-packaged produce is often smaller and pre-cut varieties simply won’t last as long. Picking your produce individually will result in better flavors and textures.
Follow these tips for picking your fruits and vegetables.
Apples: Fruits should be firm, colorful, shiny and free of bruises or punctures.
Apricots: Select aromatic fruits with no green spots and slight give with gentle pressure.
Bananas: Select fruit that is yellow all over with no green or brown spots.
Berries: Look out for mold and mushy berries.
Blackberries & Raspberries: Full and juicy, but not leaking.
Blueberries: Select firm ones and avoid berries with red or green areas.
Strawberries: Select colorful strawberries with green stems. Fruit should be fragrant and shiny, as well.
Cantaloupe: Select aromatic fruit that is heavy for its size.
Cherries: Select plump, firm cherries that look dark and glossy with green stems.
Figs: Avoid selecting dirty, bumpy or broken fruits.
Grapefruit: Select a deeply colored fruit with a slightly reddish hue and a heavy, plump feel.
Grapes: Search for grapes that are firmly attached to flexible stems. Grapes should be deeply colored, firm and plump.
Kiwi: Select fragrant, plump fruit. If you want ripe fruit, select the ones that yield to gentle pressure, or pick firm ones and ripen at home for a few days.
Lemons & Limes: The best citrus will be bright and feel heavy for its size. Avoid discoloration and overly thick peels.
Mangoes: Selecting mangoes is best done by feel rather than color. The softer the mango, the riper it is. The stem end should be lightly scented.
Oranges: Fruit should be heavy for its size. Also look for smooth, firm and thin peels.
Peaches: Select aromatic fruit that is soft, but not mushy.
Pears: Ripe pears should give a little when pressed gently at the top.
Persimmons: Select smooth and plump fruit. The skin should be bright and glossy.
Pineapples: Search for large fruit with bright green leaves. The outside should be firm.
Plums: Select plums that are firm and heavy for their size.
Pomegranates: Darker colored pomegranates will be sweeter than those that are pink, which will taste tart. Fruit should be heavy and firm.
Watermelon: Select heavy, firm watermelon. When tapped, the inside should sound hollow.
Asparagus: Choose asparagus with firm, green stalks and tightly closed tips with no signs of flowering.
Avocados: If you’re looking for an unripe avocado, select a firm one that doesn’t give to gentle pressure. If you want to purchase a ripe avocado, choose a bumpy dark-green one.
Corn: Keep an eye out for plump corn with sticky, brown tassels.
Cucumber: Bright, firm cucumbers with even color are the best to take home. Keep an eye out for dullness, soft spots and bruises.
Eggplant: Select smooth, shiny eggplants with deep, uniform color. The vegetables should be heavy for their size, and the smaller eggplants are generally sweeter.
Garlic: Choose garlic that is plump and heavy without broken skin or soft spots.
Herbs: Select fresh herbs that are fragrant and do not appear wilted.
Lettuce: The outer leaves of a lettuce head should be intact and firm, and the whole head should be somewhat heavy.
Okra: The best okra will be bright green with no bruises or dark spots.
Onions: Select firm onions with papery skins that are still intact. Store at room temperature.
Peppers: Select shiny, firm, wrinkle-free peppers.
Potatoes: Select firm potatoes with no sprouts, slits, green tinge or wrinkles. Store at room temperature.
Rhubarb: The stalks of the rhubarb should be stiff and not limp. There should be no cracks or blemishes, and leaves should be small. Be sure to remove the leaves before you store rhubarb as they are toxic.
Sugar Snap Peas: The pods of sugar snap peas should be medium to dark green in color and feel firm and plump.
Tomatoes: Avoid fruit that is bruised, cracked or wrinkled. The leaves should be bright green, and the tomatoes should be heavy and smooth.
Yellow Squash: Select firm, small to medium squash, as the large ones contain too much water or fiber.
Zucchini: Be on the lookout for firm, shiny vegetables free of cuts and bruises. Pick out the ones that aren’t too big.
For a list of North Texas farmers markets to shop fresh, local fruits and veggies, visit Farmers Markets Offer Fresh Local Fare.