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Volume II
July 29, 2005

Picky About Produce
by Amy Hunt

This is the time of year to celebrate in the garden. Fresh fruits and vegetables are in abundance, and all of your hard hours in the garden are really paying off…. Or if you are like me and can’t even get a plant to sprout; it is time to head to the farmer’s market and roadside produce stands. There really is nothing like a fresh garden tomato with a little salt and pepper (even if you have to let someone else grow it).  

There are some secrets to picking out the most flavor full produce no matter where you get it.  At they provide some simple techniques to finding the best. So head out to that farmer’s market and enjoy the season.

Select the Best Produce

How disappointing is it to find out that the fresh produce you just carefully selected from the market is actually no good? Stop wasting your time and money buying produce that should never touch your lips, and start being produce savvy! You will find that these tips will give you the knowledge you need to bring home the freshest, tastiest, and most delicious fresh produce your family has ever eaten!

The Fresher the Better

From the branch to your belly, the produce you buy should be as fresh as possible. If you can find one, a local farmer’s market is a great place to find fresh produce that has just been picked - maybe even that morning! These markets usually happen at least once a week, so you can buy a week’s supply and then restock. If you can’t find a local farmer’s market, ask your grocer which days they get their produce delivered. Shop on these days to get the "cream of the crop" and take home quality produce.

The Smell Will Tell

One of the best tools to determining if produce is at its peak ripeness is right under your nose. Well, more specifically, it IS your nose! Rather than thumping, tapping and staring at produce, stick it right up to your nose and give it a good sniff. With most fruits (melons, peaches, pears, bananas, etc.), you can actually get a "sense" of its level of ripeness just by smelling. Overripe fruit will have a rank odor, and under-ripe fruit will have not much odor at all. Practice at home by smelling a piece of produce that you think is ripe and then tasting it. You will get the hang of it soon enough!

A Measure of "Give"

Besides the excellent sense of smell, you can determine the quality of your produce using your other senses. Pressing your finger into the produce will give you a clue of how good it will be. An apple should stay firm and not give when you press it, otherwise it will be mushy and grainy. An avocado, meanwhile, should allow your finger to leave a dent when pressed. Unless you like mushy apples and hard-as-rock avocados, of course!

A Weighty Issue

Believe it or not, the weight of some fruit can tell you how tasty it’s going to be. Hold a melon in each hand and measure which one is heavier. A heavier fruit is indicative of a higher level of juiciness, meaning more sweet taste for you!

The Eyes Have It

Fruit changes color as it ripens, so color is an important indicator. Even, continuous color is better than produce that changes from red to yellow to green. Check for blemishes and bruises before selecting, even if the color is good. Blemishes invite bacteria and mold, which can make your produce spoil faster.

The Season is the Reason

The final tip for choosing the best fruits and veggies is to follow the calendar for seasonal produce. Each season of the year is conducive to the growth of a different crop of produce. Buying within the right season gives you better produce to choose from, using our handy tips above!

Summer: apricots, blueberries, cherries, eggplant, fresh herbs, green beans, hot peppers, melon, okra, peaches, plums, corn, sweet peppers, tomatoes, zucchini.

Fall: apples, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, collards, grapes, kale, pears, persimmons, pumpkins, winter squash, yams.

Winter: beets, cabbage, carrots, citrus fruits, radishes, onions, rutabagas, turnips, winter squash.

Spring: asparagus, blackberries, green onions, leeks, lettuces, new potatoes, peas, red radishes, rhubarb, spinach, strawberries.


* DVO welcomes your kitchen hints and cooking or nutrition questions! Email us and we'll post your hints and Q/A's in upcoming newsletters! *

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