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Friday, October 2, 2009

How to Choose Perfectly Ripe Produce

When facing baskets of fresh figs or a bin full of onions, how do you make your selection? What are the marks of quality produce?

'Compact' and 'heavy for its size' are universal qualities to look for when selecting produce.

Below are more specific traits

  • artichoke: compact, with firm, fleshy, tightly closed leaves.
  • asparagus: tight, dark green or deep purple tips with firm slender stalks, preferably less than 1/2" in diameter.
  • eggplant: tight, smooth skin. small or medium-sized ones have fewer seeds (examining the scar on the blossom end to select 'male eggplants' is bunk! They possess both male and female parts and can self-reproduce.)
  • garlic: plump and compact with tight skin
  • onion: tightly-closed neck, firm and dry all over with crackly skin. all varieties should have a mild smell; a strong scent indicates rotting.
  • peppers: firm, tight glossy skin. heavy ones have thicker walls and therefore more juicy flesh.


  • passion fruit: large and heavy. ripe when deeply wrinkled.
  • persimmon: deep color; more red than yellow.
  • fig: deep color. white cracks and a slight leathering effect indicate extreme sweetness!
  • lychee: redder the fresher/better. with stems attached.
  • citrus: firm and round with smooth skin.
  1. pomelo: heavy, fragrant.
  2. grapefruit: flattened ends, skin that is not puffy.
  3. lemon: bright yellow, not greenish.
  4. lime: dark green ones taste freshest; yellowing indicates the degradation of tartness and overall flavor.
  • melon: slight softness and fruity aroma. look for a 'ground-spot' (slightly flattened, side where the skin is lighter in color where the melon once rested on the ground.) The more distinct the ground-spot is, the more time the melon spent ripening on the vine.
  1. cantalope: golden under the netting, not dull green.
  2. honeydew: freckles on the skin indicate sweetness.
  3. watermelon: ground-spot should be yellow, not white.

* The Wellness Encyclopedia of Food and Nutrition by Sheldon Margen, M.D., University of California, Berkeley, Random House Inc., 1992.

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