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Maggie Beer

How to Select the Best Quality Fruit and Veggies

April 11, 2018

Most fruit tastes best when eaten straight after being picked ripe from the tree. With a few exceptions, such as pears, which need to ripen once picked, fruit doesn’t ripen further after picking. Logistically this makes delivering fruit in its prime a very difficult task for the industry, especially given the distance most fruit and vegetables need to travel to get to the marketplace. Refrigerating fruit is not the best solution as it dulls flavour, removing the natural scent and thus a key indicator of ripeness. So how do we choose the best quality fruit and veg?

Think local

The best piece of advice I can give to help anyone source the most flavoursome fruit and vegetables is to buy locally grown produce as often as possible. If you have one nearby, Farmer’s Markets are an obvious choice for produce grown locally to you, buying directly from the grower; produce that is picked ripe and sold immediately, without needing to rely on refrigeration and distant markets, is always going to offer superior flavour.

Use your senses

Visual indicators can be just as obvious as those your nose will pick up on, so when choosing bananas for example, find those that have a few black marks on their skin to let you know they are ripe, zucchini should be shiny not dull, and tomatoes should have taunt skin, never wrinkled.

Feel is the next sense that can help you choose the best fruit and vegetables. Avocados should have just enough give at their tops when you press them gently with your thumb, they will continue to ripen, but you want to avoid buying them rock-hard as they will never develop a good depth of flavour. There is a classic indicator that a pineapple is ripe if one of the inner leaves easily pop out from the top when you gently pull at it, and always take note of the weight; heaviness can indicate how juicy a fruit or melon is, especially with oranges, lemons and watermelon.

Don’t dismiss produce if it isn’t of uniform colour or size, or perhaps has a slight blemish on it. I’ve eaten some of the most flavoursome fruit and veggies that have been wonky shapes or not as brightly coloured as food photography will lead us to believe is natural.

What's in season?

Always fall back on buying what you know is in season. This will give you fruit and vegetables that have travelled the least distance, and been stored for the least amount time, both are key factors in how much flavour produce has.

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