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Should It Be Soft or Firm? A Guide to Choosing Fruit and Veggies at the Supermarket

Growers make great efforts to produce attractive and nutritious fruits and veggies. Modern companies must streamline processes, not only to increase efficiency, but also to increase the overall quality and nutrition of the produce once it reaches market.

Gilberto Salazar Escoboza, head of Videxport, one of Sonora, Mexico’s premier produce growers, knows the importance implementing processes which ensure high quality and nutritional fruits and vegetables. For example, in Salazar’s watermelon operations, once harvested, the watermelons immediately move to cold storage facilities for sorting by size and quality. The melons are then boxed and placed on to pallets for shipment. The entire process is done without delay.

The many steps growers take prior to shipping out produce takes care of some of the consumers’ selection process. However, once fruits and veggies are in the grocery store, there are things to look for in terms of how they look, smell, and feel.

Choosing the Best Watermelons

The rind of watermelons makes picking out “a good one” a mystery to many people. That rind protects the sweet insides of watermelons and actually provides good clues as to quality and ripeness:

  • Consider color: know what color the watermelon should be; if it is some exotic variety, ask a produce clerk for guidance.
  • Look for integrity, specifically whether the outer surface of the watermelon is free of bruises, breaks, and gashes. Also, watch out for (and avoid watermelons with) any mold or other growth on the rind.
  • Watermelons depend upon high moisture content for their deliciousness. Water is heavy, so choose a watermelon that feels heavy for its size. Not sure how to do this? Keep picking up a watermelon in each hand and compare until the heaviest one is evident. It is better to have a smaller, heavy watermelon full of flavor and juice than a big dry and bland one.
  • Although watermelons do not yield much information for your nose, other types of melons, especially cantaloupes, will emit the scent of ripe melons slices. The stronger the scent, the riper the fruit.

Related: The Health Benefits of Watermelon

Many swear by the tapping method for choosing watermelons and other melon varieties, but without a good ear and extensive knowledge of the pitch and “musicality” of them, relying on sigh, touch, and scent is a better option.

Avocados

The basis for the universally popular guacamole, the avocado is native to Mexico and Central America. Sometimes referred to as an alligator pear, the avocado is actually a large berry. Avocados rarely remain on the tree to ripen. When harvested, their flesh is very hard. Most of these fruits begin the ripening process once in the store.

In terms of choosing the best avocado, there are several considerations:

  • When the avocado will be eaten
  • The type of avocado
  • The available storage considerations

Look for avocados deep green in color. The skin should also be tight with no cuts or cracks. Avoid ones with obvious bruises and moldy patches. In general, after harvesting, it takes close to a few days to a week for the fruit to ripen. Placing the avocado in a paper bag with a banana or apple speeds the process.

When choosing the right avocado, find one the yields to a little pressure for immediate consumption—but do not press with your thumbs and instead use all fingers to test softness. Harder ones are fine for use in a few days, as they will ripen once on the kitchen counter. Depending upon the type of avocado, the outer skin may change color and become a bit duller when ripe.

Peaches

Finding a ripe peach at the store is difficult. Most peaches ship to stores while still quite unripe. As with many fruits and veggies, at that point, the flesh is rock hard and the flavor just about nonexistent. Ripe peaches in a market bruise more easily, require special handling, and spoil quickly.

Unfortunately, many peaches, once purchased, never develop into the great, sweet, and tasty fruits they should be. From “gentle” squeezing to rummaging around for the pinkest peach, many shoppers have their own methods for finding peaches most likely to ripen into great fruit. However, that “gentle” squeeze likely only leaves bruises when (or if) the peach ripens, and pink is not a true indicator of potential. A rich yellow background counts the most. A lot of green, however, is a sign of a peach picked too early and likely never to fully ripen. /

Aroma is the key to finding a peach with potential. First look for peaches with nice color, and then give them a sniff. If the peach has a slight but noticeable peach scent, it has a good chance of ripening into something truly delicious. As for its firmness, like avocados, avoid squeezing with individual fingers. Instead, gently press the top of the peach with all fingers; if it has just a slight give, it’s ripe enough to eat. Firmer ones will ripen at home.

Tomatoes

Tomatoes now come in a huge variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. Choosing the best of any particular type requires a little knowledge, including color at ripeness, softness, and size.

In general, however, look for tomatoes with a deep, rich color. A good tomato is firm yet yields just a bit with a gentle squeeze. The sniff test also works with tomatoes, although the scent is subjective: earthy, sweet, and/or woodsy.

Peppers

For many, the only peppers they choose are bell peppers, the blocky, thick walled, hollow vegetable found in produce aisles. Green bell peppers are just less ripe versions of red bell peppers, although separate yellow and orange varieties do exist. Look for peppers with smooth, shiny skin free of cracks, wrinkles, or blemishes. They should feel sturdy and firm.

Choosing fruits and veggies involves all but one of our senses: rapping on watermelons, gently squeezing peaches, eyeing the color of a grape, and smelling their aromas. And all this touching, looking, listening, and sniffing eventually satisfies the remaining sense: taste.

Gilberto Salazar Escoboza is extremely family orientated and has been married for 24 years. He was born and raised in Hermosillo, Mexico. Gilberto has been the General Director of Videxport ever since he took over the family business in 1987. He enjoys reading and writing about the latest trends in the produce industry.

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