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How to Tell When Produce Is Ripe
Even at the farmers market, where produce is just-picked, it pays to know when to squeeze (tomatoes) and when to tap (watermelon). We asked Matt Ray, mid-Atlantic produce coordinator for Whole Foods, how to shop and store wisely.
Comments () | Published May 16, 2013

Peaches

Ripe?

A peach should give a little to the touch and have a floral aroma. The rule: If it’s ready to squeeze, it’s ready to eat.

Storage

Ripe peaches go in the refrigerator. If they’re not quite ripe, room temperature is best until they are. Avoid stacking to prevent bruising.

Basil

Ripe?

Ripe basil is kelly green, not yellow. The small leaves of a young plant will be more tender and flavorful than the bigger leaves of a mature plant.

Storage

In the clamshell container it comes in, at room temperature; use within a day or two. Basil turns black when stored in the fridge. Hydroponic versions, sold in a bag with water, should be stored at room temperature as well, out of sunlight.

Berries

Ripe?

Strawberries should have a fruity aroma and be red all over with no white “shoulders.” The test for blueberries is to taste one; barring that, test by smell. Raspberries shouldn’t be flat or mushy and should have a deep red hue.

Storage

Refrigerate ripe berries, but for eating, get them to room temperature to bring out the aroma. Blueberries can be rinsed before storing and will last a few days.

Corn

Ripe?

Peel back the husk and look for an unblemished tip and consistent rows of kernels. July has the tenderest corn. You should be able to pierce a kernel with your finger; if you can’t, the corn may be tough.

Storage

Snip silk at the tip to avoid mildew, and stash unhusked corn in the fridge (no bag needed); eat as soon as possible. It lasts up to seven days in the refrigerator, though flavor will deteriorate.

Eggplant

Ripe?

Look for consistency in color and texture. There should be no wrinkles on the skin and especially on the tip, where they signify age. Heavier specimens are fleshier; lighter eggplants tend to be drier; moisture can mean bitterness unless you salt slices or cubes and let them sit before using them.

Storage

In the refrigerator; it will last up to four days.

Leafy Greens

Ripe?

Look for good color in the leaf or stem. Rainbow chard should be deep red, yellow, or dark green. Kale and collard greens should be dark green; mustard greens should be lighter. Softer leaves taste better; if they feel stiff, they’ll be tough.

Storage

Rinse before putting in a plastic bag in the fridge to keep them moist, but leave the bag open so the leaves don’t decay. Ideally, check moisture daily and spritz to keep them in top condition.

Melons

Ripe?

Tap or slap watermelon. If you hear a dull thud, it’s overripe; a little ping is what you’re after—watermelon doesn’t ripen off the vine. With cantaloupe, be sure the scent is sweet, the skin is uniform with no soft spots, and, most important, the vine end is cleanly cut, meaning the melon fell off the vine and was ready to pick. For honeydew, look for green and yellow hues; excessive firmness means it’s not ripe.

Storage

Watermelon does best at room temperature—it’ll last up to a week. You can place it in the fridge a couple of hours before eating. Cantaloupe and honeydew should be stored in the refrigerator.

Tomatoes

Ripe?

Color is the best clue with beefsteaks—look for a deep red. With grape or cherry varieties, avoid green or yellow ends. A “tomatoey” aroma and giving a little when squeezed are good indicators, too.

Storage

At room temperature, out of the sun. Tomatoes will ripen off the vine.

More Farmers Markets ››

Categories:

Food & Drink
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Posted at 09:00 AM/ET, 05/16/2013 RSS | Print | Permalink | Comments () | Washingtonian.com Articles