Buying Guide: Fruit

Purchase fresh quality fruit at the peak of its season. This guide contains basic information about uses, selecting best quality, what to avoid, and storage tips.
Buying Guide: Fruit - Articles
Buying Guide: Fruit

Apples

There are hundreds of different apple varieties with colors ranging from various shades of red, green and yellow. The flavor of apples also varies from tart to sweet.

Usage

May eat raw, add to salads, baked, or steamed and in desserts.

Avoid

Avoid product with soft or dark spots. Also if the apple skin wrinkles when you rub your thumb across it, the apple has probably been in cold storage too long or has not been kept cool. Also avoid rough and scab-like condition mainly on the stem end of the apple.

Storage

Store apples in cool dark place, they also do well placed in plastic bag in refrigerator.

Blueberries

Mildly sweet to tangy and tart blueberries are low in calories but packed full of nutrients.

Usage

Eaten raw, add to fruit salads, bake in pies, cooked glazes, add to muffins, pancakes, and breads.

Avoid

Overripe or old berries have a dull appearance and are soft, with dimpled skin or leaking juice.

Storage

Before storing blueberries, check the container for any spoiled, wrinkled, smashed, or moldy berries. Be sure to use any extremely ripe berries within 24 hours. The rest should be refrigerate, unwashed, up to 5 to 7 days in a dry, covered container.

Cantaloupe

Cantaloupes have brown web like look on outer rind with soft orange flesh inside.

Usage

Eaten raw, added in fruit salads or in fruit platters.

Selection

A good quality cantaloupe will have large webbing or netting on the skin, have yellowish orange coloring, and is slightly soft on the stem end (firm elsewhere). It will have a good cantaloupe smell on the stem end (if it is not too cold), and the scar at the stem end should be a smooth and well rounded cavity. You can hear the seeds rattle inside a juicy melon when shaken. Often melons will have a bleached side that rested on the soil - this does not affect the quality of the melon.

Avoid

Avoid cantaloupes with a rough stem end with portions of the stem remaining. This means the melon was harvested too early. Cantaloupes with green coloring, soft or sunken spots, or dark and dirty spots that look moldy are all signs of poor quality.

Storage

Cantaloupes pick up other odors easily, beware when storing. The whole melon will refrigerate up to five day. Cut melon in air tight container will last 3 to 5 days.

Cherries

There are two main types of cherries, sweet and sour. Sweet cherries are great for eating raw and many other uses. Sour cherries on the other hand are almost too tart to be eaten raw and are widely used in desserts, preserves and other cooked dishes.

Usage

Eaten raw, added to fruit salads, cooked in sauces and desserts.

Selection

Good quality cherries are large, firm and have even deep-red coloring.

Avoid

Avoid cherries that are soft, have wrinkled skin, are leaking and sticky, or that have any visible signs of decay. Immature cherries will be smaller and less juicy while over-mature product will be soft, dull and wrinkled.

Storage

Refrigerate cherries unwashed and loosely-packed in a plastic bag up to one week. Cherries with healthy green stems attached stay fresh longer than those without stems.

Grapes

Grapes are available in green, red, and black and vary in size. Some contain edible seeds while others are seedless.

Usage

Eaten raw, added in salads, as a snack or as a dessert.

Selection

Good quality grapes are well-colored, plump, firmly attached to the stem and are fairly large. Some varieties of red grapes are supposed to be small. Select grapes that are fairly firm, but not rock-hard. Red varieties are best when red coloring predominates on all or most of the berries. Grapes are always picked ripe, and do not ripen further once off the vine.

Avoid

Avoid grapes that are soft, wrinkled, shriveled, shattered, or have bleached areas around the stem. Soft or wrinkled grapes means they are getting old or have not been kept cold.

Storage

Grapes refrigerate well for up to one week, but they must be dry, unwashed and sealed in a plastic bag. Check for spoiled grapes before storing.

Honeydews

The melon is large (4 to 8 pounds) oval in shape, and generally very smooth with only occasional surface marks. The color of the outer shell can range from pale green to pale yellow.

Usage

Eaten raw, added in fruit salads or in fruit platters.

Selection

Good quality honeydew melons turn a creamy yellow color and the skin will have a slightly waxy feel when ripe. They will be firm with a small amount of softness at the stem and will be fairly large. Those weighing about 5 pounds have the best flavor. The seeds of an especially juicy melon will rattle if the melon is shaken.

Avoid

Avoid a honeydew that is too firm, too soft, has dark blemishes on the skin or is green-colored.

Storage

Wrap ripe melon in plastic bag and refrigerate up to 5 days. Cut melon stored in air tight container will last up to 4 days.

Peaches

Two general types: freestone (flesh readily separates from the pit) and clingstone (flesh clings tightly to the pit). Freestones are usually preferred for eating fresh or for freezing, while clingstones are used primarily for canning, although they are sometimes sold fresh.

Usage

Eaten raw, canned, added to fruit salad, baked in desserts.

Selection

Good quality peaches will be fairly large, firm to slightly soft and have a yellowish or creamy background. A red blush may be present on some peach varieties to differing degrees, but this is not a true sign of quality. An extremely ripe peach that is at room temperature will also have a sweet peach smell.

Avoid

Avoid peaches that are extremely small, hard, soft, or that have wrinkled skin at the stem end. Peaches that have a green background were picked immature and will not ripen well.

Storage

Once ripe, a peach will keep in the refrigerator up to one week. Do not store unripe peaches in the refrigerator, in a plastic bag or in direct sunlight; they will ripen in a closed paper bag in one to three days.

Pears: Bartlett

Pears grow in a wide range of shapes from almost round to bell shaped. Their color can vary from green to yellow to red. The flavor also ranges from spicy to sweet to tart sweet.

Usage

Eaten raw, added in salads, canned, baked or poached.

Selection

Good quality Bartlett pears will be medium sized or larger with no bruises and only a few minor scuff marks. The coloring will be light-green to completely yellow. Bartlett pears are ripe when they turn completely yellow and give off a sweet aroma. This pear bruises easily when ripe.

Avoid

Avoid pears with soft spots or scars that are more than skin-deep. Pears that are extremely hard will ripen best at room temperature.

Storage

Ripen pears in a paper bag at room temperature for two to three days until fragrant and soft to the touch. Once ripe, pears will keep up to three days if refrigerated in a plastic bag.

Plums

Varieties differ slightly in appearance from oval to round and their color can be yellow, green, red, purple and deep blue. The flavors vary slightly so you should buy and taste one to see if that variety appeals to you. Dried plums are called prunes.

Usage

Eaten raw, baked or poached for dessert.

Selection

Good quality plums will be fairly firm to slightly soft with smooth skin.

Avoid

Avoid plums with wrinkled, punctured, or rough skin. Also avoid plums that are extremely hard or have brown skin discolorations.

Storage

Ripen firm plums at room temperature in a paper bag, with the top folded over but not sealed, for a couple of days. Ripe plums should keep in the refrigerator up to three days.

Raspberries

Raspberries are available in red, black, purple and gold, with red raspberries remaining the most common.

Usage

Eaten raw, in fruit salads, in desserts, sauces, in jams and jellies.

Selection

Good quality raspberries will be firm, plump, and dry.

Avoid

Avoid raspberries that are smashed, leaking juice or have mold. Also avoid berries that are too firm, green or are still attached to the stem.

Storage

Raspberries are highly perishable and delicate. It is ideal to eat raspberries as soon as possible after purchase. Raspberries should last up to five days in a dry, sealed container in the refrigerator. Moisture will increase the risk of moldy, spoiled berries. Prior to refrigeration, discard any moldy berries. Overripe berries should be eaten within 24 hours of purchase. Do not wash until ready to use!

Strawberries

Strawberries vary in size, shape and color (some are off white). In general the flavor of smaller berries is better than larger ones.

Usage

Eaten raw, in desserts, glazes, juicing, jams and jellies.

Selection

Good quality strawberries should be firm but not rock-hard, evenly shaped and medium to large in size. Their coloring should be even and bright red.

Avoid

Avoid berries that are wrinkled, soft, spotted with mold or leaking juice. Berries with more than a touch of green or white around the caps do not ripen well after they are picked.

Storage

Check the contents of the strawberry container and use any overripe berries within 24 hours of purchase. The remaining strawberries should be refrigerated in the same container they were purchased in, and should last two to five days. Do not wash them until you are ready to eat them, or they will become mushy and moldy.

Watermelon

The flesh ranges in color from white and yellow to the most common -- pink and red. The two main varieties are with seeds or seedless. Seeds or seedless does not change the flavor.

Usage

Eaten raw, added in fruit salads or in fruit platters.

Selection

Judging the quality of a watermelon is very difficult unless it is cut in half or quartered. Good quality watermelon will be firm, evenly-shaped, heavy for its size and have a deep-pitched tone when slapped with an open palm. One of the easiest methods is to simply turn the melon over. If the underside is yellow, and the rind overall has a healthy sheen, the melon is most probably ripe. The flesh of cut melons should have a fresh, firm texture, and the seeds, if present, should be fully mature and hard. Watermelons do not ripen any further once they are cut from the vine.

Avoid

Avoid watermelon that is partially white or pale green, soft overall, has soft spots or is leaking a milky-white fluid. Melons shouldn't have any dents, bruises or cuts, but marks left from insect bites will not affect the melon's flavor. When using the open palm technique for ripeness, avoid melons with a high-pitched tone or a dead, thudding sound.

Storage

Keep whole watermelons in refrigerator if at all possible up to 5 days. If refrigerator space limited, store in cool place. Store cut water melon wrapped in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days.