8 tips for choosing the best products
A variety of fresh fruits and vegetables on display at a market.
We’ve All Been There: Waiting For Some healthy snacks, empties a bin of blueberries to wash them, only to discover mold on the fruit he bought just hours ago. It’s frustrating, a little infuriating, and so disappointing.
Fortunately, life experience has compiled some tips and tricks to use the next time you’re grocery shopping.
Because produce is alive, knowing what to buy often comes down to recognizing where the the vegetable or fruit is in its life cycle — as well as where it is from and how it was harvested. With practice, you’ll be able to select the freshest selections, confident that your products will be the most nutritious and rich in flavor.
1. Use your senses
Baskets of apricots, plums and peaches on display at a farmer’s market.
Sight, smell, touch and taste, if you’ll be allowed a sample, are your most important tools when shopping for succulent, flavorful fruits and vegetables.
Vegetables are picked ripe and do not ripen further after harvest, so many tend to have a longer shelf life compared to more fragile fruits, which can be sold at any stage in their life cycle. That is one of the reasons why it is essential to know the indicators of maturity.
As a general rule, produce should feel heavier when ripe, thanks to its high water content. As they begin to break down, vegetables and fruits lose weight, so avoid those that feel light for their size, especially if they are bruised or mushy.
You can also usually tell at a glance if the items are in good condition. Take an extra moment to look at the cut stem, advises Cynthia Sandberg, owner of Love Apple Farms, a biodynamic farm in Santa Cruz, California. “If the cut stem is brown or wrinkled, the produce is older than you want.”
The aroma is another good indicator of ripeness. berries It should smell fresh and sweet, with no musty odor. Pineapples and stone fruits like peaches and nectarines should have a rich, fruity aroma. Ripe tomatoes produce a pleasant earthy odor, familiar to anyone who has plucked a sun-kissed tomato straight off the vine.
2. Think ahead
An elderly woman inspects the ripeness of tomatoes at a market.
Before buying produce, it’s worth considering when and how you want to use it, as both influence the preferred stage of ripeness.
Tomatoes are a good example, Sandberg says, because they have a fleeting window of perfect ripeness, though you can use them sooner. “Tomatoes should be picked when they yield to gentle pressure,” he says, “unless you’re making fried green tomatoes. Or if you want to take tomatoes over to your friend’s house to enjoy for the next week.” In both cases, underripe tomatoes are the perfect choice.
If you’re grow a gardenKeep a close eye on your vegetables and fruits so you can harvest and enjoy them when they are at their best.
3. Store strategically
Fruits that continue to ripen after harvest are termed climacteric, a category that includes mangoes, bananas, avocados, pears, nectarines, peaches, and apricots. If you buy them before they’re ripe, you can leave them out on your counter until their aromas and texture tell you they’re ready to eat or refrigerate, which will slow down the ripening process.
Some fruits do well when stored at room temperature; most can be refrigerated for a short time to prevent spoilage, and whether you choose to do so is a matter of personal preference. For example, we are often told to never refrigerate tomatoes because it can affect their texture. But putting those almost overripe tomatoes in the fridge can buy you an extra day or two if you don’t plan on using them right away.
4. Shop with the seasons
“It goes without saying that fresh fruits and vegetables in season provide the foundation for delicious and nutritious dishes,” writes chef Bryant Terry in his book Afro-Vegan. buying for what’s in season it allows you to get your hands on the freshest, most nutritious produce and is a great excuse to try new foods and recipes.
For example, if it’s spring, look for spring favorites like asparagus, artichokes, radishes and rhubarb. We are used to buying these items at any time, but eating them in the spring aligns our diet with the corresponding seasonal changes in our bodies, according to health traditions like India. ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine.
5. Keep it local
A man buys a bag of fruit at an outdoor farmers market.
Local farmers markets are some of the best places to find the freshest produce. Often the merchandise is just picked up that morning and has more nutrients than anything you can buy at the supermarket. That’s because produce begins to lose nutrients once it’s harvested: A University of California, Davis study found that vegetables lost between 15 and 77 percent of their vitamin C during seven days of storage. .
Farmers markets are also a great source of unusual cultivars and traditional varieties that can transform your kitchen.
Wine lovers may be familiar with the concept of terroir, or sense of place. A marriage of elements (climate, soil, elevation, cultivation methods) gives the wine a distinctive identity that speaks to its origins: the land where the grapes were grown.
Terroir also applies to vegetables and fruits. Vegetables, chives and strawberries bought in a farm in your area it will have a similar unique character, particular to its locality.
6) Know your etiquette
It’s perfectly acceptable to pick up a piece or two of produce as you shop to check if it’s in good condition, but it’s considered impolite to rummage through boxes, squeezing each avocado in search of the ideal.
This is especially true at farmers’ markets, Sandberg notes. “Ask the farmer before handling the product. They may want to pick and pack for you,” she says, adding that the protocol may differ by location. “At European farmers’ markets, it is absolutely forbidden to touch the produce if you are a customer.”
If, while browsing the product aisle, you find shallots that aren’t looking their best, pick a handful of leeks to take their place. Mealy apples? Choose pears instead. No kale in sight? Attempt Swiss chard, kale or spinach.
Such flexibility ensures you get the freshest vegetables and fruits while diversifying your diet, and you may find that your original recipes become even tastier with the alternative.
8. Don’t forget common sense
Your own judgment will usually lead you in the right direction. Sprouted potatoes and wrinkled apples have seen better days. Squishy, mushy tomatoes shouldn’t make it into your shopping cart either.
Produce is often waxed before it hits supermarket shelves, so the brightest, most tempting-looking vegetables and fruits won’t necessarily be the tastiest. This is true even for some organic products.
Although the Food and Drug Administration says that wax is safe to eat, you may want to kill it, along with any bacteria and microorganisms that might cling to it, before using the product. Most coatings can be scrubbed off with a hot water brush, but you can also add a tablespoon of a household acid, such as lemon juice, to a pan of hot water to help do the job.