by Purple Carrot

Nothing’s more disappointing than coming back from the supermarket or farmers market with an armful (or two) of groceries, only to discover that your avocados are hard as rocks, your bunches of herbs are bruised in the middle, or your peaches are somehow browning from the inside out. So here are a few quick tips to help you pick the perfect produce next time you’re shopping.

If It’s Broken, Don’t Pick It

Produce should have a consistent, even coloration. Most fruits should be supple and yield a little bit if pressed lightly. Apples and most vegetables should be as firm as possible. Softness indicates over-ripeness or spoilage. Leafy greens should be firm, crisp, and plump, but tears or a little browning are perfectly fine. Obviously, damaged goods don’t magically look better after sitting in the fridge. And they definitely won’t taste better after cooking. Avoid anything with bruises, punctures, cracks, shriveling, or decay. In some cases, like cauliflower, take time to sort through the selection. Avoid any on the bottom that have the most pressure on them and look for the prettiest produce of them all.

Dense and Delicious

You’ve probably heard the rule of thumb that produce should be “firm, plump, and heavy for its size.” That said, we’re not always looking for the heaviest fruits and veggies. They develop flavor as they grow in the ground. Harvesting can stop fruits and vegetables from developing further flavor. This means that bigger produce can have more diluted flavor. Basically, that finite amount of flavor is spread across more surface area. Small and mid-sized produce usually packs more punch.

The Nose Knows

Fruits and vegetables come in dozens of colors, but they don’t all showcase their ripeness like bananas. The more poker-faced produce often gives a lot away in it’s odor. You want to smell the item by the stem end, like the top of a peach and bottom of a pineapple. Often, ripe produce has a mild fragrance similar to its flavor. Can’t smell much? Give it some time on the counter to develop a bit more. If your produce is super aromatic (especially in the case of radishes, beets, and other root vegetables) that might be a sign it’s gone bad.

Be Patient for Perfection

Some fruits and vegetables ripen more over time at room temperature. These include apples, apricots, avocados, bananas, cantaloupe, kiwis, mangoes, nectarines, peaches, pears, plantains, plums, and tomatoes. Hold onto these for a couple days after buying. They’ll sweeten or soften up nicely. If you’re in a rush to ripen, place any of these fruits in a closed paper bag. These fruits release ethylene gas, which helps them ripen faster. Beware, however: if you grabbed green bananas or rock hard avocados thinking it’ll buy you time, they might never ripen as they were harvested too early.

These are just a couple things to keep in mind shopping in the produce section. At the end of the day, trust your senses and your gut. If you have a shred of doubt that the fruit or vegetable you’re holding will be delicious, find another one. Nobody will judge you for wanting the best produce!