How to Pick Produce

It’s morning, the sun is shining, and you think to yourself, “Hmmm, I want to make spaghetti squash for dinner and perhaps strawberry shortcake for dessert. Maybe pick up some plums and peaches for a lovely chicken, plum, peach kabob on the grill.” After work you head down to the grocery store to locate these seasonal fruits and veggies. It’s only then you realize some have bruises, some are yellow and others orange. Some items are big and some small, a few are soft and others hard. Which ones do you pick?! Which ones are ripe?!

Here’s a great ingredient guide to help you identify items by picture. Not only do they have an index for which ingredients/produce you may be wondering about, but they show you recipes that go with the ingredients/produce.  It’s a great resource to have on hand in times of question.

Some quick tips to select the best produce by touch and smell:

– Give stone fruits a gentle squeeze to see if they are soft enough to enjoy

– Melons are ripe when the smell sweet and don’t have as much of that under-ripe green tone to them

– Avoid lettuce with brown edges, holes, and tears

– Choose broccoli that has a firm stalk and bright green florets

I’ve come unprepared many a time to the grocery store and it’s always a frustrating moment. My go-to in these times of aggravation is to ask the produce specialist on duty. Usually the specialist will be roaming about the fruit and veggie section, stocking the stands with fresh produce. They usually know exactly what the “perfect produce” should look like. Also, more often than not, they will give you a sample of the fruit/veggie in question. I once asked what a dragon fruit looked like and the clerk, not only, showed me what the fruit should look like when ripe, but also cut me a piece to try! Though I didn’t buy the dragon fruit, he wasn’t angered; rather thrilled he witnessed my taste buds’ new fruit discovery! This also helps cultivate your relationship with your local grocery store. When you ask more questions, they realize your interest in their fruit and will let you know when new fruits are in season. Just like becoming friends with your local butcher, you can never go wrong becoming friends with your local grocer…even if it be at Safeway!