Never Waste Money On Bad Summer Produce Again

Photo: Courtesy of Whole Foods.
One of the most frustrating things about grocery shopping is buying produce you were positive was perfect, only to take that first disappointing bite — and find out you just wasted good money. In the hopes of saving ourselves from perpetual produce regret (and in order to keep our wallets happy) we reached out to a produce expert for help. James Parker, facility team leader for Whole Foods Market's Global Perishable Office, (side note: Global Perishable Office?) gave us the lowdown on picking some of our favorite summer produce. Below, find an A-Z guide for choosing warm-weather fruits and veggies — so all those healthy eats end up in your stomach, not in your trash can. Blueberries: Look for dark, plump berries with a whitish-gray, waxy deposit known as the “bloom.” Avoid packages with wrinkled or red berries; these are indicators that it may be a bad batch.

It’s not so much their shade, but rather the depth of the color that's important. A bright-green stem indicates freshness, while wrinkling near the bottom of the stem means they’ve been sitting out a tad too long. Corn: Feel for the kernels through the husk — make sure they’re plump and abundant. Look for brown, sticky tassels (you don't want them to be dry or black) at the top. Finally, choose husks that are bright green and wrapped tightly against the cob. Honeydew: Drag your fingers across the skin of the fruit. If it feels smooth and slippery, that means the sugars haven’t yet risen to the skin and the melon isn’t ripe. If it’s slightly tacky feeling, not quite sticky, it’s ready to eat. Unlike cantaloupe, if a bit of the stem is still left on the melon, it's okay; honeydew are cut from the vine (whereas cantaloupes just slip off). Mangoes: Similar to picking an avocado, always pick a mango based on how it feels. To find a good one, squeeze the mango gently; ripe mangoes will have a slight give. Don’t worry about the color; mangoes are found in a variety of greens, yellows, reds, etc., so color isn't always the best indicator. Pineapples: Despite what you may think, external color does not indicate ripeness. Choose plump, fresh-looking pineapples with green leaves and a firm shell. The ripening process halts after harvest, so even green pineapples can be ripe. Stone Fruits (Peaches & Nectarines): These fruits ripen in a specific way (from the stem end to the flower end and then outward to the pit), so you’ll want to choose fruit that gives gently when you press on the stem. But be careful: Pinching it from the top with your fingers causes bruising. Instead, pick the fruit up and give it a gentle squeeze in your palm. If the outer flesh is already soft, the fruit is past its prime. Also, consider weight; the heavier a stone fruit, the juicier it is. Lastly, there are two summer seasons for peaches and nectarines. The later "freestone" varieties should be eaten firmer to avoid a dry, pithy texture. Tomatoes: Even color across the entire fruit is the best indicator that a tomato is ready to be eaten. Despite common beliefs, you don’t want to squeeze tomatoes to check for ripeness; you could end up bruising them.
Watermelon: This picnic staple should be firm and symmetrical, with a dark-green color indicating ripeness. Most watermelons will have a white spot where the fruit sat on the ground. As the melon ripens, the white area will turn a light yellow on the rind. A lot of people believe that knocking on the watermelon can determine how ripe it is, however, this isn’t actually definitive.

Zucchini (Summer Squash):
Larger zucchini tend to be more watery and lacking in flavor, so try to go for the more reasonably sized ones. Choose zucchini with a vibrant, deep hue, as those will be most flavorful. An indicator that a zucchini will last longer is if a good amount of the stem is still attached.

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