We've all seen those people in the produce section — the ones who have to pick up every single piece of produce, hold it right up to their nose, and even give it a squeeze. It turns out the people that get a little too handsy with produce are onto something.
To determine which peach is the best one, you really do need to get up close and personal with the whole bunch.
Here are three characteristics to consider when picking out produce.
1. The general appearance of the produce.
Every kind of fruit and vegetable has specific things you should look for, but here are a few examples:
For peaches you should look for sugar spots, like the one pictured below. Davis said that many people mistake these for bruises, but these darkened spots on a peach are places where the sun has hit the peach particularly hard and lots of sugar has collected, and it just means the peach is going to taste more sweet and delicious.
Another thing to look for in peaches is a stripe across the stem like the one pictured below. According to Davis, peaches with stripes like these were allowed to ripen longer on the tree and actually swelled up against the branch they were hanging from. Peaches allowed to ripen longer will definitely taste better.
Melons have different characteristics you should look for. The first one is a well-defined ground spot like the one below. If a melon doesn't have a ground spot, it probably wasn't allowed to ripen long enough on the vine.
You should also look for a withered stem on melons. This is a sign of maturity and probably means the melon is more ripe.
Davis also confirmed that knocking your knuckles on a melon really can give you some insight into how it will taste. If you knock on a melon and it sounds like you're knocking on your own forehead, then its under ripe. If it sounds the same as thumping your stomach then its overripe. The sweet spot of perfect ripeness should sound the same as thumping your chest cavity.
2. Timing matters.
Check to see if the type of produce you're buying is in season. Late summer and early fall is the perfect time for several kinds of fruit, but you should always check to see what's in season — it will taste better. Foodstalk has a chart that shows the best time to buy several kinds of produce in New York.
Davis also explained why some kinds of produce, like bananas, are OK to buy when they are not quite ripe. Bananas are climacteric fruits — which simply means they will continue to ripen after harvesting. Other kinds of produce, like strawberries, are nonclimacteric. That means no matter how long you wait, that green unripened strawberry that ended up in your batch will never be ready to eat.
Here's a list of which kinds of produce are climacteric or nonclimacteric, according to Postharvest Fresh.
Climacteric (will continue to ripen after picking):
Nonclimacteric (will NOT continue to ripen after picking):
- Most citrus
- Most berries
3. Consider where the produce is coming from.
As a general rule, it's better to buy local. Ask your grocery store where they get their produce from — you may be surprised how far it travels. Places that sell produce grown nearby usually get the ripest bunch of the harvest.
Davis said location can even affect the taste of some kinds of produce. For example, the level of spiciness in certain peppers depends on where they are grown. Peppers grown in hotter, more humid places will taste spicier than those grown in cooler places.
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