Several times, I’ve wandered into the produce section of the supermarket and stood before a stand of beautifully polished apples and oranges, clueless on the art of choosing fruit. Here’s some advice that I’ve learned over the years from friends, TV, and the most interesting cookbook I own, How to Boil Water.
Surprisingly, citrus fruits are in season during the winter. Grab an orange, lemon, and grapefruit in each hand and choose whichever feels heavier for its size. Heavier citrus fruit (commpared to others of the same size) contains more juices and is, thus, more flavorful. Smaller, oranges with thinner peels are also more flavorful. Ignore the color of the skin or the size of the fruit.
Strawberry season is late spring, early summer. Always check the bottom of the box for signs of squishing, juicing, or molding. Mangoes also undergo the “citrus test,” with one mango in each hand. Choose whichever is heavier for its size. Pineapples should smell sweet and not boozy. When pressed, it should feel tender and not squishy. The leaves should be green with no signs of yellow or brown. The best pineapples have yellowed at the bottom. Unlike many other fruits, pineapples lack a starch reserve so they will not ripen much more after being purchased. Cover pineapples with a plastic bag and place into a refrigerator to prevent drying.
For blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries, also always check the bottom of the box of squishing, juicing, or molding. Choose blueberries that are free of moisture and blackberries that are deep in color. Cherries should be large, glossy, dark-colored, and firm, while their stems should be green. Tap a melon with your knuckles while holding it close to your ear. Good honeydew, cantaloupe, or watermelon should sound hollow; the best cantaloupe should hav e a thick, raised texture on its skin. If possible buy watermelon with a shriveled stem. Peaches, plums, apricots, and cherries are ideal with the stems still attached. Otherwise, they should feel firm.
Lightly press the neck of a pear with your finger. It should give to gentle pressure. Buy large, shiny, and firm pomegranates with no cracks. Always choose shiny-skinned apples that have no soft spots. Apples also give off natural gases that help fruits ripen more quickly. One spoiled apple will ruin an entire bag if placed together so watch for over ripened apples. To speed up the ripening process of fruits such as pears, peaches, plums, or avocadoes, place the fruit in a paper bag with an apple for a day or two on the counter.
YEAR ROUND FRUITS
Cantaloupe and honeydew are available year-round but best in the summer. Similarly, oranges are available year-round but best in the winter. Bananas should be light green to yellow, for they ripen in only a day or two. Refrigerate ripe bananas to slow down ripening. The banana skin will turn brown or black, but the actual fruit remains edible. Don’t purchase grapes with wrinkly skin or soft patches near the stem. Instead, choose plump, full grapes that are still attached to the skin. Sneak a sample of each box of grapes if possible.
Keep this in mind for your next trip to the supermarket. If you’re planning on using fruits that are not in season at the time, try purchasing frozen or canned fruits. Mm… I’m off to enjoy a nice, plump orange. Tata!