I am very intimidated…bordering on paranoid…when it comes to picking out fresh fruit at the market! I’m convinced that everyone around me in the produce section knows something I don’t! Apparently “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” because it turns out my daughter felt that same way! That’s why she wanted to do this post on tips for picking out fresh fruit. Take it away Britta….I AM ALL EARS ON THIS ONE!
Shopping for fruit can be a pretty mystifying experience. I will often find myself peering into a bin of some fruit or another, wondering which one I might choose. Sometimes I look around to see what tactics the other shoppers are using to choose their fruits. I might see some tapping, some squeezing, some smelling… and I wonder which, if any, of these methods are actually useful. Luckily, I happen to have an insider source for all things grocery, and he graciously agreed to share his tips for choosing the best fruit!
Meet Tyson Day. He and my husband have been close friends since they were born (more or less), and he was Best Man at our wedding last August. His family owns a chain of local grocery stores that he has been working in since childhood. He has worked nearly every position possible over the years, but the produce section is a personal favorite of his. To put it simply, this guy knows fruit! And luckily he has agreed to share some of his expert tips with us!
The first step to picking the perfect apple is to know which variety of apple you want! I know very little about apple varieties, so Tyson kindly outlined the most popular varieties of apples for me.
- Red delicious are a sweet, soft variety that are good for baking and making applesauce.
- Golden delicious have a mellow flavor and a subtle sweetness. If you’re selecting a golden delicious, try squeezing the skin. If the skin wrinkles when you squeeze it, Tyson says it’s no good.
- Gala is a good all-around apple, providing the best bang for your buck in terms of flavor and crispness. It has a flavor somewhere in between sweet and tart.
- Fuji is sweetest popular apple variety. It’s very kid friendly, and good for packed lunches!
- Granny Smith are really tart, and very crisp. They are traditionally used for pies because they don’t break down in the baking process like other varieties.
- Honeycrisp are “the King of apples,” according to Tyson. They are extremely sweet and tangy, and super crisp. They are also one of the largest varieties of apples.
- Cripps Pink apples, also known as “Pink Lady,” are tangier than most apples, but really delicious. Think the sweetness of a Fuji and the tanginess of a Granny Smith in one apple.
If you have questions, feel free to ask anyone in the produce department! Tyson says that the people who work produce are very knowledgeable about the products they sell and would be happy to answer your questions.
When choosing a melon, Tyson says that the “ugly melons” generally taste better than the pristine ones. So don’t be afraid of brown spots or scarring! Another good tip for melons with tough skins like honeydew and cantaloupe is to smell the rind. If a cantaloupe smells like cantaloupe, it’s ripe!
For watermelons, Tyson suggests holding the melon in one hand and tapping it lightly with your other hand. If you can feel the reverberation in the hand holding the melon, that’s a good sign. He says this signifies the “sweet spot” between getting a melon that is not ripe enough, and one that is overly ripe and mushy inside.
For most varieties of citrus, like oranges and grapefruits, you want to choose one that is heavier than it looks. If the fruit is heavy, it has a higher water content, which means it will be juicy!
Choosing berries is very much dependent on personal taste. If you like really sweet berries, look for ones that are vivid in color. However, be aware that these will have a shorter shelf life. If you want berries that are going to last a while in your fridge, choose ones that are less vibrant in color, as they will continue to ripen at home.
Tyson’s tip for selecting a pineapple is to try picking out one of the center leaves. If it comes out easily, it’s ripe! You can also smell the outside, making sure that it smells like tasty pineapple.
“The Face Method”
Several fruits, including avocados, mangos, peaches, and kiwis, can be chosen using what Tyson calls the “face method.” Squeeze the fruit lightly. If it feels the same as touching your cheek, it is probably past its prime. If it feels like your forehead, it is not totally ripe yet and will need a day or two on your counter to reach prime ripeness. If it feels like the tip of your nose, it’s perfectly ripe!
In addition to all the great fruit-picking advice, Tyson also shared a few bits of advice about how to be a good produce customer, which I thought were excellent and wanted to pass them on.
1. You don’t have to touch ALL the fruit to pick a good one. If you know you want to get a peach, go ahead and touch a few of them, but don’t insist on touching all of them! They’re not going to be that different.
2. Just because it doesn’t look perfect, doesn’t mean it’s not good. Fruits and vegetables have natural variations in their appearance due to a variety of factors, and the appearance often says very little about the flavor. So don’t shy away from the ones with brown spots and scars!
If we want to get the most from our fruit-buying budget we need to select the best we can. Hopefully these helpful hints from our friend, and produce expert, Tyson will help us all get the most flavor and nutritional bang for our buck!