Shopping for packaged food at the grocery store is easy; you only have to look at the expiration date to tell if your food is fresh or not. With produce, it can be a bit trickier to get the best foods to bring home to your family.
There are many different ways to check to see if your fruits and vegetables are ripe, but which are the best ones to use? Here are a few hints to help you find the best fruits and vegetables at the grocery store.
:: The Squeeze Test
For many fruits, you can get a good idea of how ripe an item is by putting it to the squeeze test. Fruits that give a little when you squeeze them are the better choice when compared to fruits that have a hard, solid outer layer. While you won’t be able to use this for coconuts or pineapple, you can use it for peaches, melons, plums, nectarines, and many more of your favorite fruits. Avocados that are soft to the touch, on the other hand, are past being ripe and should be avoided.
While the squeeze test is a good indicator for many fruits, color is also a key ripeness indicator. For fruits like bananas, color is the most important sign to look for. Green bananas will need a few days to ripen, while bananas that are just starting to show signs of browning may be too ripe—although these can still be used for baking. Apples, tomatoes, cherries, and berries can also be judged based on their color. For red berries, the deeper the color is, the more intense the flavor will be. If you want to buy sweet corn at the peak of freshness, look for a healthy green husk. Husks that are starting to brown can be a sign that the corn is past its peak.
You can sometimes judge the ripeness of produce by the smell. Pineapple will smell as sweet as it tastes when it is ripe, and the same is true of strawberries and mangoes. If your fruit smells sweet, chances are it is ripe. Similarly, it is very easy to tell if fruit is over-ripe or about to go bad by the smell as well. If your local store’s produce department has a distinct, unpleasant odor, you can be sure that some of the fruit is warning you to stay away.
Some fruits and vegetables just feel heavier than they look. This is a sign that the produce is ripe and ready for your table. Grapefruit, watermelon, tomatoes, and mangoes will all feel heavier when they are ripe. The weight can be difficult to determine without a basis for comparison, so if you aren’t sure, use some of the other tips to help you make the best guess about the ripeness of your produce.
:: The Sound Test
Have you ever seen people listening to fruit at the grocery store? Thumping melons and pumpkin can give you a good indication of their ripeness. You should listen for a hollow sound to tell if these fruits are ready for you to eat.
There is nothing worse than bringing home produce that you can’t use because it’s overripe. By ensuring that you pick the best produce every time, you can reduce or eliminate food waste. Also, if you do end up with something bad, you can usually take it back to you store and get a refund.