Updated: Sep 18, 2020
It happens to the best of us. You picked up so many healthy fruits and vegetables from the grocery store, but within days you discover that those bananas for your morning oatmeal have all but turned to mush! And that avocado you were so excited to make fresh guacamole with? It is hard enough to be a bowling ball. Why bother spending your hard-earned money on fresh produce that makes it to the dumpster before it makes it on your menu? Well, don’t feel too bad. I’ve been there, done that, and can promise you that there’s a better way! In fact, with just a few quick tips, you can learn how to pick produce like a pro.
Let’s start with the most popular fruit in all of America...Bananas! That’s right; bananas make up more than half of all fruit consumed in the United States. Unfortunately, they can easily go to waste if you don’t know how to judge the best bunch. First, you should always have a plan for your bananas. If you’re going to eat your bananas solo as a healthy snack or a fancy addition to a fruit salad, then go for bananas with the lightest green color, mostly yellow and with very few brown spots. The more green that you see on the bananas, the less ripe they are, and the longer you’ll have to wait to eat them. However, don’t count those ugly ones out yet! Brown spotted bananas get a bad rap, but if you’re planning on doing any cooking, then these guys are your best friends. Whether you’re whipping up banana bread, muffins, pudding, or even cookies, reach for the bananas with some light brown spotting and a soft but not mushy feeling. Want to be an overachiever? Pick a bunch of bananas at varying stages of ripeness so that you can enjoy them over a longer period of time.
Oranges are another family breakfast staple that, unfortunately, goes to waste far too often. Despite being named for its colorful appearance, when it comes to picking the best oranges, you actually shouldn’t pay too much attention to the color at all. Instead, check the density of the fruit by giving it a gentle squeeze. It should feel slightly heavy when you lift it up and very firm to the touch. If it feels too soft or spongy, then it is already past its prime. If you want to save some money and buy a bulk bag of oranges, always examine the fruits that might be hiding at the bottom. All it takes is one bad orange to spoil the whole bunch quickly, and the same can be said for other citrus favorites such as tangerines, clementines, and satsumas.
They say an apple a day keeps the doctor away, but not if they go straight to your garbage bin! Technically, many different types of apples have their unique factors. But instead of rambling on about the differences between a Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Macintosh, and every flavor in between, I’m going to save you the time and give you a few things to look for no matter what type of apple is tickling your fancy. First off, always check the firmness of the apple. You should be able to give it a gentle squeeze and not indent the skin easily. If you feel any soft spots or bruises along the skin, it’s most likely going bad. Next, you should be able to smell a sweet, fresh aroma of any apple. If you can pick it up for a sniff and you don’t notice that signature scent, then the apple is not quite ripe yet. Lastly, you want to pick apples that are vibrant in their color. It doesn’t matter if they’re red, green, yellow, or pink, the color should be full, and there should be no noticeable spots or discoloration on the skin.
Although tomatoes are technically considered a fruit, I personally still consider them part of the vegetable world. No matter what you call them, the important thing is that you know how to pick ones that will last long enough to make into a tasty sandwich or salad. For large tomatoes, you should pick them up and notice that they are slightly heavy to lift and should be firm if squeezed gently. And I do mean gently; otherwise, you may be calling for a clean up on aisle three! Another little known trick is to give the tomato a nice sniff. A healthy and ripe tomato should give off a sweet, earthy smell. Smaller types of tomatoes are usually packed in plastic containers that make a sniff test pretty tricky. Instead, I suggest you check to make sure they are smooth and free of bruises and that there are none secretly rotting at the bottom and waiting to ruin the whole bunch.
Lastly, I’m not sure if there’s a food that has enjoyed more time in the spotlight recently than the beloved avocado. Whether you’re obsessed with avocado toast or a guacamole lover, knowing how to pick a good avocado has become an essential life skill. I suggest starting with the color of the avocado, which should be dark green. Bright green avocados might look pretty, but they’re most likely nowhere near being ripe, and you could be waiting up to a week before you can enjoy them. Most importantly, you can tell how ripe an avocado is by doing a squeeze test. It should be slightly soft but not too hard or mushy. Once you get good at feeling out avocado firmness, you can even plan by feeling for one that is a few days away from being perfectly ripe.
And there you have it. With just a few tips and tricks, you can finally feel confident in the produce aisle and bring home only the best fruits and veggies for your household. Now, get shopping!