Choosing And Using Better Produce

A few tips can help you make better choices when picking out produce.
A few tips can help you make better choices when picking out produce.

When you’re standing in the produce aisle at your local supermarket, it can be hard to know just which fruits and vegetables to bring home. There’s usually no sell-by date to guide you, and sometimes minor cosmetic imperfections or irregularities can be deceiving. Here are a few tips for selecting the freshest, most flavorful produce on every grocery trip:

Know the usable life span of your produce: Different fruits and vegetables are likely to remain tasty for various lengths of time. This is an important consideration at the grocery store, but also when planning out meals. Russet or sweet potatoes, bell peppers, Brussels sprouts, green beans, carrots, broccoli and woody herbs will all keep over a week without a noticeable decline in quality. Lettuce, cucumbers, eggplant, mushrooms, new potatoes and leafy herbs like parsley should be used within a week. Use or preserve tomatoes, avocados, chard, asparagus, spinach and delicate herbs like basil no later than a few days after purchase.

Use all your senses: Take time to carefully look at, touch and smell your produce. Check for telltale signs of flavor and freshness. Apples and strawberries should be deeply colored, firm and shiny. Ripe avocados will be relatively soft. Fresh, healthy grapes are plump and securely attached their stems. Carrots, celery and peppers should be firm. Quality oranges and watermelons are heavy for their size.

Frozen is not necessarily bad: Real Simple advises that there’s nothing wrong with the vegetables in the freezer section, which are usually frozen early with all their nutrients intact. Just make sure they haven’t been thawed and then refrozen into a lump and do not include unhealthy additional ingredients like sauce, cheese or pasta. You may even want to try freezing produce yourself so you can have it on hand several months after it goes out of season.

Wash your fruits and vegetables: Along with picking the right produce, you want to make sure you care for it properly when you return home. According to The Kitchn, that means inspecting and washing all your fruits and vegetables. Rinse fruits and vegetables under cold water, rubbing to remove dirt. Check under leaves and near stems to ensure you don’t miss any. Give thick-skinned produce like oranges and melons a rinse to prevent contaminating the edible flesh with any bacteria on the skin when you cut them open. Place lettuce, herbs and other greens in a bowl of cold water and then drain.

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