How to Select Fruit: Foolprooof Tips
There is nothing quite like the flavor of a perfect piece of fresh fruit. The juice explodes in your mouth, filling it with flavor preferable to nearly anything else in the culinary world. It would be easy to make healthy food choices if every piece of fruit met this standard, but sadly most do not. Many instead have brown spots and soft spots, which is an especially disappointing outcome when visions of the ideal were dancing in your head.
The good news is that you can identify higher-quality fruit before you bite into it. Check out the tips below on how to select fruit including apples, pears, oranges, strawberries, tomatoes, and bananas.
Before we get into selecting fruit, check out all of the health benefits of fruit in our infographic below.
The first step in finding the perfect apple is to look for it at the right time. Apples are best from late August to the beginning of Spring, with individual varieties peaking for around a month in that time frame. McIntosh apples generally peak in September, for example. While apples are always available in the grocery store, buying them in season is the best way to get great fruit.
Assuming the timing is right, look for brightly colored, firm fruit. The area around the apple’s stem should also have a fresh fragrance. Bruises can serve as a warning sign of possible decay, so favor those with smooth skin. You may notice that some apples have a dry spot, tan or brown in coloration. These spots are called scalds, and generally offer no indication of an apple’s quality.
Once you bring your apples home, you need to decide whether you plan to use them immediately or hold onto them for a while. Apples store well in the refrigerator but ripen much faster at room temperature. They only hold for a few days at room temperature, however, so you need to eat them quickly. When you are ready to eat them, eat the largest first as they will rot before smaller ones.
Pears tend to be best in late August through September in the southern United States. Northern states push the schedule back slightly, with the period from September to October representing the best time to purchase a pear. Either way, buying pears while they are in season in your area is the first step to a juicy snack.
Pears do not ripen on the fruit tree, meaning that you need to allow ripening time before indulging. The amount of time they need to ripen depends on the type of pear. Bartlett pears require 4-5 days to reach their maximum potential, Bosc and Comice varieties require 5-7 days, and Anjou pears need 7-10 days. If you do not want to wait that long, you can hasten the ripening process by placing the pears in a paper bag with a ripe apple or banana. The ethylene gas emitted by the ripe fruit will speed up the pear’s natural ripening cycle.
There is a simple test to determine when it is time to eat your pear. Place your thumb on the area where the stem meets the fruit and apply gentle pressure. If the flesh beneath your thumb yields to the pressure evenly, it is time to eat the pear.
Oranges have a very long season in the United States ranging from November to May. A good orange will be heavy for its size, as the extra juice gives it an added heft. You should also look for firm pieces of fruit with a sweet smell.
Some authorities also advise avoiding oranges dull in coloration, while others contend that an orange’s color is indicative only of the climate it was grown in. The majority opinion is that color does not matter, but you can use it as a tie-breaker if necessary. Regardless, you should always avoid fruit that is overtly damaged on the outside.
The tips above apply to all other citrus fruit as well as oranges. This means that fruits such as lemons, tangerines, and limes should be purchased in the same manner as oranges. The only difference is the season, which varies slightly for each individual fruit.
Strawberries are best in the spring and summer months. However, where they were grown is even more important than when you buy strawberries. Strawberries lose all of their flavors when transported long distances, so you should only buy locally sourced berries. A farmer’s market is the best way to ensure your strawberries have not traveled far.
When selecting strawberries, coloration is the most important factor to consider. Your strawberries should be bright red in color, as any other color is indicative of the fruit having been picked too early. Strawberries do not ripen at all once they leave the vine, so picking them too early dooms the fruit forever.
Many reputable strawberry vendors allow you to taste a strawberry before you buy a batch of them, virtually guaranteeing you high-quality fruit. You should always plan to eat strawberries immediately, as they only last for around 48 hours before losing quality.
Tomato season lasts from around June through September. Like apples, you can usually buy tomatoes year-round, but that doesn’t mean you should. The best tomatoes are vibrant red in color and have no visible exterior bruises. A strong sweet, earthy aroma emanating from the tomato’s stem is another good sign. The juiciest tomatoes are also heavier, so consider the fruit’s heft before making a purchasing decision.
Some tomatoes that will be shipped long distances are picked early and then treated with ethylene gas in transit to promote an artificial ripening process. The result leaves the tomato tasting bland, so it is best to avoid them. Look for tomatoes that are “Vine-Ripened” to enjoy a tastier, naturally-ripened fruit.
Tomatoes are a tropical fruit, so you should never put them in the refrigerator. The fruit will just turn black if you do. You should plan on eating the tomato before it begins to rot at room temperature.
Bananas do not have a season the way most other fruits do, so they can be at their best year-round. They are commonly picked early and artificially ripened with ethylene gas in transit, but unlike tomatoes, the process does not compromise a banana’s flavor. The result is a fruit that is relatively unlikely to completely disappoint you.
Bananas are green before ripening, yellow when ripe, and brown when they are overripe. Contrary to popular belief, brown bananas have not yet gone bad and can still be eaten. If you want to ripen your bananas more quickly, expose them to sunlight. It does not need to be that intense to ripen your bananas effectively.
Like any other tropical fruit, a banana should never be placed in the refrigerator. It is a good way to make your bananas rot early. Instead, store them at room temperature until you are ready to consume them.
How to Select Fruit: Your Perfect Piece Awaits
How to select fruit comes down to these specific tips that we have discussed in this post. Buying fruit only when it is in season is always the best option, as is mitigating the distance the fruit had to travel in order to reach your grocery store shelf. Heavier fruit tends to be juicier, and it is a bad idea to purchase obviously damaged fruit. Ethylene promotes ripening on a near-universal scale, but doing so artificially can hurt the fruit’s quality. Now that you know how to select fruit, your next perfect piece of fruit could be closer than you might think!
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