When you are looking at peaches, for example, it is best to get up close and look at the whole bunch to choose your best option. So, what characteristics should you be looking for?
First, you should inspect the general appearance of the produce. Each variety of fruit and vegetable has different and specific things that should be noticed. For example, you should be looking for dark spots on peaches. While you may assume this is where the peach has been damaged, it is actually known to be a “sugar spot,” which is where the sun has hit the peach just right and increased its level of sweetness.
Continuing with the example of peaches, look for a stripe across the stem. Peaches with these stripes were left to ripen longer on the tree, allowing them to grow up against the branch of the tree and richen their flavor.
Moving on from peaches, melons have other characteristics that you should be on the lookout for. First, look for a well-defined ground spot. If a melon is lacking a ground spot, it probably was not left on the vine long enough to properly ripen. You should also make sure that your melons have a withered stem. This means that the melon is probably ripe. One trick for melons is to knock your knuckles on it. If you knock and it sounds really hard, then it is under ripe. However, if it sounds soft, it is probably too ripe. Look for a melon that sounds like you are thumping on your chest to determine the perfect level of ripeness.
You also want to make sure that the food you are buying is in season. Late summer and early fall is a great time for lots of fruit, but you should still check to see what is in season because it will make a difference in the taste.
Some produce, like bananas, are fine to buy before they are ripe. Bananas are climacteric fruits, meaning they keep ripening after they harvest. Other produce, however, is nonclimacteric. This means no matter how long you allow a strawberry to sit in your refrigerator, it will never become ripe if it is green.
You should also consider where your produce originated. As a rule of thumb, it is best to buy your produce locally. Ask the people working in your grocery store where they buy their produce because you may be surprised at how far it has to travel before it gets to your table. Buying produce that is grown nearby means you will get the ripest bunch of the harvest.
If you are not sure whats in season, do some research to get a list of fruits and vegetables that are ripe in your local area. To make sure you get the most flavorful produce that provides the best nutrition, gather your produce when theyre fresh and in season.
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