Your Guide To Selecting the Best Summer Produce

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Shopping for produce at your local grocery story can be a major hassle. Not only are you fighting for time in front of the pineapples and sweet potato with the rest of the post-office shopping crew, but then you’re standing there squeezing, sniffing, and shaking hoping to figure out the method to the madness that is picking out the perfect piece.

The good news? While we can’t divert everyone away from your favorite grocer, we can give you the necessary tips to selecting the best seasonal fruits and veggies. We caught up with Chris Romano, global produce and floral coordinator for Whole Foods Market, for his expert tips for picking summer’s staple produce.

Figs: Look for figs that are clean and dry without bruising. They should be soft, but not mushy. A firm fig is a sign that it is not ripe. It is also important to pick one with the stem firmly in place, as a loose stem is often an indicator for a mushy fig.

Pineapples: External color does not indicate ripeness. Choose plump, fresh-looking pineapples with green leaves and a firm shell. The ripening process halts after harvest so even green pineapples can be ripe!

Mangoes: Don’t focus on the color as mangoes are found in a variety of greens, yellows, reds, etc., so it is not always the best indicator. Instead, squeeze the mango gently; ripe mangoes will have a slight give. Similar to picking an avocado, always pick a mango based on how it feels.

Stone Fruit (Peaches & Nectarines): These fruits ripen in a specific way (from the stem end to the flower end and then outward to the pit), so you’ll want to choose fruit that gives gently when you press on the stem. And don’t pinch it with your fingers from the top. This causes bruising. Instead, pick the fruit up and give it a gentle squeeze in your palm. If the outer flesh is already soft, the fruit is past its prime. Also consider weight — the heavier, the juicier they are!

Corn: When choosing the best corn on the cob, feel for the kernels through the husk; make sure they’re plump and abundant.  Look out for brown, sticky tassels (versus dry or black) sticking out at the top. Finally choose husks that are bright green and wrapped tightly against the cob.

Tomatoes: Even coloring is the best indicator that a tomato is ready to be eaten. Despite common beliefs, you don’t want to squeeze tomatoes to check for ripeness — you could end up bruising them.

Zucchini (Squash): Larger zucchini tend to be more watery and lack in flavor, so try to go for the more reasonably sized ones. Regardless of color (green, yellow, or white), go for zucchini with vibrant, deep color — as those will be most flavorful. Finally, a good indicator the zucchini will last longer is if a good amount of the stem is still attached.

Honeydew: Unlike cantaloupe, a bit of the stem left on is OK as they’re cut from the vine (versus just slipping off). Drag your fingers across the skin of the fruit–if it feels smooth and slippery, that means the sugars haven’t yet risen to the skin and the melon isn’t ripe. If it’s slightly tacky feeling, not quite sticky, it’s ready to eat.

Watermelon: This picnic staple should be firm and symmetrical, with a dark green color indicating ripeness. A lot of people believe that knocking on the watermelon can determine how ripe it is, however this isn’t actually definitive.

Blueberries: You’ll find the best tasting blueberries throughout the summer when they are coming from both the east and west coast. Increased availability means shorter shipping distances, fresher berries and some of the most competitive prices of the year. When selecting blueberries, look for dark, plump berries with a whitish-gray, waxy deposit known as “bloom.” Avoid packages with wrinkled or red berries, these are indicators that it may be a bad batch.

Fresh cherries: When looking for the best batch of cherries, it’s not so much about the shade of the cherries, so much as the depth of the color. A bright green stem indicates freshness, while wrinkling near the bottom of the stem means that they’ve been sitting out a tad too long.