In a perfect world, all produce would get eaten and none would go to waste. But the problem I face when picking produce is that I tend to go for aesthetically pleasing stuff, which has resulted in bland-tasting food a few too many times.
Not only will these tips help you choose tastier, fresher, or sweeter produce, they should also make grocery shopping FUN. There are so many times when I step into the grocery store and I’m overcome with dread because everyone is trying to get in and out as fast as possible.
Grocery shopping shouldn’t be done as a chore! If I start out by enjoying the experience of familiarizing myself with different fruits and vegetables, the happier I am to exit the store and make my next meal, instead of giving up and ordering Seamless.
The following are just a few tips, and they’re definitely not the only ways that you can determine quality, nor will they always result in giving you the best-tasting produce. But in general, they’re good rules to follow, and they’ll definitely make you look like an expert or a weird aficionado (both worthy things to be seen as).
1. It’s usually better to opt for smaller fruits and vegetables, because they tend to be sweeter or more savory.
Just look at the size of this eggplant:
Great eggplants have a shimmer to them and when they’re ripe, you should be able to lightly press them and see an imprint. Smaller eggplants tend to be sweeter, and have thinner skin and fewer seeds.
Big isn’t bad, but don’t reject the smaller ones just because of their size.
Especially if you’re committed to cooking, you’ll prefer something that tastes better than something that amounts to scarcely more food in the end.
2. For fruits, don’t base your decision on how perfect they might look. Instead, pick them by their weight: Heavier fruits will be juicier.
Looks-wise, sometimes cracked skin is actually a good thing: It means the fruit has collected enough water to break the skin, so it’s extra juicy.
When picking pomegranates, they should be hard and brightly colored (dark spots are fine).
3. Sometimes, color won’t mean anything at all (like these mangoes).
Mangoes with a red tint aren’t better or riper. They’re just of a different variety. Apricots and certain types of apples are the same way: Those with a red blush aren’t riper than those without.
4. For certain fruits, color is a better indication of ripeness.
To test for ripeness, smell from the bottom; if it’s a good, solid fruit, it should emit a fairly strong scent. For pineapples, this is usually accompanied by a yellow discoloration that will continue to the top as it ripens.
6. Buy onions that are firm (so very tossable), and have little to no scent.
A stronger scent usually indicates that it’s sprouted already, which tends to make the onion less firm and less crunchy. If they’re sprouted, they’re still OK to eat, but they might not be that great in salads or other dishes.
7. Just like mangoes, color is insignificant when picking snow peas and snap peas. Don’t mind the white spots.
8. But for broccoli, you want darker heads that are tightly compacted.
Cauliflower heads should also be pretty tight and shouldn’t have any darker “sunburned spots” or soft spots.
9. Same with broccolini: You want darker heads, but those with flowers mean they’re mature and should be eaten soon.
10. For leafy vegetables with thick stalks, pay attention to both the stalks and the leaves.
But if you’re buying them loose, make sure they’re not too dry and don’t have a lot of cracks or dents.
12. SOMETIMES, you need to ~feel~ your fruits and veggies. Like, get in there and give them a light squeeze.
Oranges should feel heavy for their size and give a little when you apply some pressure on them. When they’re rigid, dry, and light, they might not be as juicy.
Also, don’t jettison the greener-looking ones. Sometimes, perfectly good oranges left on the tree experience “re-greening,” affecting their appearance but not the flavor. Instead, choose one that’s heavier for its size.
Note: Boobs are great for comparing weight and general squishiness.
By applying a small amount of pressure, you should be able to rub the skin off with your thumb. A little rub won’t hurt anyone, but maybe try this after you’ve committed to buying it.
16. It’s not the end of the world, but try not to buy potatoes that have sprouted.
It’s OK to eat the potato once the sprouts have been cut off (provided that the potato is still firm), but wouldn’t you want to get your money’s worth by eating the whole thing?
17. I don’t buy coconuts that often, but because you get to shake them, I will be buying so many more of them.
This was my genuine reaction to hearing the sloshing of the coconut water. It was miraculous.
18. For a ripe, sweet, and delicious watermelon, check to see if it has a yellow color spot:
There is the elusive “thump” test (a quick, crisp knock sound) but it’s difficult to tell unless you thumped a lot of watermelons:
For honeydew, choose dull over shiny for a riper melon. They should also be pale yellow and not too green. Check squash for their outsides as well: If they’re shiny, they were probably picked too early.