There's nothing more frustrating than arriving home with bags of groceries only to cut into an overripe avocado or a melon that isn't quite ready yet. When preparing meals, the freshness of the ingredients that you select can either enhance or diminish your dish. But choosing fruits and vegetables at their peak with varied seasons can be challenging, to say the least. Use these clues to help take the guesswork out of produce shopping to make the most of your time and money.
Remember to use your senses when selecting fresh fruit. Look for smooth skin, free of blemishes, dents, dark spots or soft areas as these could indicate damaged or possibly rotting flesh beneath the surface. Ripe fruit will feel firm but also yield to slight pressure. If it doesn't have any give, it's probably under-ripe and needs to sit out for several days before eating. The weight of the fruit you select matters as well. A heavier feeling citrus or melon usually indicates juiciness vs. one that feels light, which could mean it may be dry. Smell the fruit to check for a light and pleasant aroma. If it is too pungent or sour smelling, it is likely past its prime.
Veggies will often give similar visual clues as fruits with an important exception. Ripe vegetables will almost always look and feel crisp and firm so it's best to avoid any softness. Seek out vegetables that have bright colors and aren't cracked or moldy. Unfortunately, taking a whiff won't really help you determine freshness but you'll surely recognize that unmistakable stink if something is rotten. Leafy greens vary in texture but, in general, you should steer clear of anything that has brown spots, looks wilted or slimy.
No matter what type of produce you are buying, it's always best to plan meals around fruits and vegetables during their peak season for the best taste and value. Strategize, create lists and learn how meal planning can help cut your grocery bill to make shopping trips more productive and less expensive.