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Updated August 15, 2012, 11:38 am betterhomesgardens
How to choose fresh fruit and vegetables.
In the age of the greenhouse and hydroponically grown fruit and vegetables, flavour seems to be losing out to demand and what looks good. Get to know your local greengrocer. A greengrocer can tell you what's in season and what's good value.
Apples: Hardness is a good indication of crispness. Give the fruit a good flick with your fingers or press your thumb into it - a good solid sound and cracking of the skin into the flesh lets you know just how crisp it is. Apples bought in summer have less flavour, as they've been in cold storage for months (March to October is apple season). Store fruit in your fridge's crisper.
Apricots: Avoid fruit with soft, shrivelled pieces and green tinges. You want fruit that yields to gentle pressure, with velvety skin and a sweet aroma. Colour doesn't indicate ripeness or flavour (a pale apricot might still be rich and sweet).
Avocados: Avocado is a fruit! It ripens from the bottom upwards, so feel around the stem at the top for softness if you want one that's ready to eat. Otherwise, ripen at room temperature at home (place in a brown paper bag with a banana for fast ripening).
Bananas: Avoid buying bananas that are bruised and split. Green fruit is okay as bananas ripen off the plant. To speed up the ripening, just put them in a brown paper bag with a ripe banana or apple (storing bananas in the fridge makes thes skin turn black but stops them ripening).
Berries: Berries should be firm, bright and richly coloured with no sign of damage or bruising. Strawberries should have a lovely sweet scent and be free of whiteness - those with no fragrance will be bland. Berries don't store well, so try to eat them as soon as possible.
Cherries: Choose large, firm cherries with a rich red colour. Use as soon as possible
Grapes: Look for new, fresh stalks - dead stalks mean overripe grapes. Give the bunch a good shake - if too many grapes fall off, they're too mature. White grapes tinged yellow are sweeter, but this depends on personal taste.
Lemons: Choose lemons that are heavy for their size and fragrant. Avoid any with soft spots. Green lemons will not ripen off the tree.
Limes: Limes should be firm, thin-skinned and heavy for their size. Yellow skin means the lime is ripe and juicy and are preferable to small dark limes.
Mandarins: The skin should be glossy with a strong orange colour, and, like its citrus cousins, be firm and heavy.
Mangoes: The stronger and sweeter the aroma the better! Watch out for too many black spots. Green mangoes will ripen at room temperature in two to five days. Once ripe, eat as soon as possible.
Nectarines: Smaller than a peach, a nectarine should be smooth, bright, shiny and unblemished. The flesh near the stem should yield slightly when ripe. Will ripen at room temperature out of direct sunlight.
Oranges: Pick them up in the palm of your hand. They should be firm and heavy. Brown to black blemishes on the skin (followed by the fruit shrivelling) indicate deterioration.
Passionfruit: Wrinkly fruit is good! It indicates ripeness (smooth and shiny is unripe) and sweetness. Make sure the fruit is heavy and full.
Pawpaw and papaya: When ripe, it will yield at the stem end a little more than a ripe avocado. Avoid fruit with too many black spots and bruising. Eat as soon as ripe.
Peaches: When ripe, the flesh should be firm but yield to gentle pressure. You're after a rich yellow colour at the stem end and a distinct peachy aroma - give them a good sniff!. Those that are bruised or green (underripe) should be avoided.
Pears: Yellowing at the base indicates ripeness, softness and sweetness. When ready to eat, pears should yield to medium pressure around the stem.
Pineapples: The tip is to pull out the top leaves - the easier they pull, the riper the pineapple. Pineapples also lose their green colour when ripe.
Plums: Plums should be firm, bright and show no sign of wrinkling.
Rockmelon: Use your nose! Smell is the best indicator of flavour and ripeness. Also, shake the fruit - if it rattles it's mushy inside. Soft and sunken spots are a sign of spoiling.
Tomatoes: Yes! They're a fruit! And they don't belong in the fridge. Let them ripen at room temperature. Buy those with firm flesh and a uniform colour with no blemishes, wrinkles or cracks. Be sure they're heavy in the hand - light ones will have a poor texture and taste.
Watermelon: Pick up the fruit in your hands and make sure it's a good weight. Give it a bit of a thump too - a slightly hollow sound is what you're listening for. A yellowish underside is also a good sign of ripeness.
Artichokes: Look for globes that are firm and heavy with tightly packed, stiff leaves. The more stalk the better.
Asparagus: Asparagus should be firm and straight with tight heads. A good sign of freshness is snapping them at the stem - they should snap easily.
Beans: A bright green colour with no blemishes makes for a good bean. When fresh they should snap in half easily. Large seeds and swollen pods mean the beans are too old.Beetroot: Beetroot should have no soft or wet areas and no splitting or spots. The leaves and stems should be intact (avoid buying those with the stems cut off), and bulbs smooth-skinned.
Broccoli: Tight heads that are compact, green (no yellow allowed) and without woody stalks are a guarantee of fresh broccoli.
Cabbages: These sport a firm head with crisp, shiny leaves. Look at the outer leaves - they should have a stronger colour with no yellowing or limpness.
Capsicums: Look for capsicums that have a taut, glossy skin with no signs of wrinkling.
Carrots: Buy carrots that are small to medium-sized as they are younger and sweeter. Make sure they have no splitting and no discolouration.
Celery: Keep away from those limp stalks and limper leaves. Go for firmness, which equals crispness! No cracks allowed. Celery only lasts for up to three days in a plastic bag in the crisper section of your fridge.
Corn: Use your fingernail to puncture a corn kernel and watch for the milky juice to spurt out. Corn should still be in its lovely green and moist husk with lots of silky strands. Store and cook them in their husks too!
Eggplant: Taut glossy skin that's unblemished is what you're after. Avoid eggplant that are too large or have wrinkles.
Garlic: Give garlic heads a good press with your thumb. They should be hard and firm with tightly packed cloves and no brown spots. Choose large cloves for ease of peeling.
Ginger: Make sure it's very firm and very crisp - ginger shouldn't bend! The older the ginger, the hotter the flavour it will be. Store ginger wrapped in foil in the crisper section of the fridge or store indefinitely in a sealed container in the freezer.
Leeks: Don't buy leeks with any sign of yellowing on the crisp green stalks.
Lettuce: All the golden rules of vegetable-buying apply here: nothing withered, discoloured, blemished or broken.
Onions: Glossy, papery, crackling skins are what you're after. They should be firm, with no damp smell or spongy feel. Sprouts are a sin.
Parsnips: A crisp parsnip with smooth skin is ideal. Parsnips should also be firm, evenly sized and free from messy roots.
Peas: The younger the better. Pods that are overfirm and overfull mean they are too mature and will probably be dry, floury and tasteless. Look for bright, crisp, young peas that squeak when rubbed.
Potatoes: Avoid ones with shoots or green tinges. Make sure they're smooth, firm and dry with unbroken skin.
Pumpkin: When fresh, pumpkin should be firm, brightly coloured and have a nutty smell.
Spinach: Choose a bunch that looks perky and bright green. It may even squeak when handled - a good sign!
Spring onions (shallots): Signs of yellowing, sliminess and limpness are all no-nosZucchini: Avoid large zucchini - they are overmature and bitter. Look for smaller, young, firm, smooth-skinned zucchini that are bright green and not too dark. Zucchini should not bend, but hold its firm shape!