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Spring and summer bring plenty of options for fresh local produce, which is great news for your body and your wallet. In-season produce tastes better simply because it’s fresher. Plus, when things grow in abundance and don’t need to be shipped from warmer climates, they’re usually cheaper, too.
But before you load your shopping cart: How can you know you’re getting the ripest, best-tasting fruits and veggies?
We’ve compiled this helpful guide for how to pick the best produce at the store so you can choose wisely (and deliciously). You can also check out our guide to see what’s in season each month!
Here’s how to choose the best asparagus: look for firm stalks and closed buds. A ripe bunch should squeak when squeezed.
Choose baby lettuce with firm leaves. When you get home, don’t break it up or wash it until you’re going to use it, as this can speed up the wilting process.
In-season blueberries should be slightly firm and blue (surprise!). Red, white, or green hues are all signs that the berries were picked too early and won’t ripen further. To see if the blueberries are overripe, check the bottom of the plastic container for dripping or squashed berries.
A ripe eggplant should be slightly heavy, green stemmed, and have smooth skin that will give just a little when squeezed. Choose small or medium eggplants to get the best flavor.
A perfect green bean will make a satisfying snap sound when broken, but your grocer won’t appreciate if you go around snapping their vegetables before you buy. To tell by sight, check that the beans don’t show through the pod–if they do, it means they weren’t picked in time.
To choose the perfect melon, knock on it and listen for a hollow sound. You can also go by smell–sweet-smelling skin means the melon is ripe and juicy.
Contrary to what you may think, the red blush on peaches is not a sign of ripeness, that’s just where the sun hit it! Look instead at the tone of yellow–golden-tinged peaches are riper than light yellow ones. The peaches should also feel heavy, smell sweet, and give just slightly when squeezed.
The best radishes have firm, unbroken skin. If they come with the greens attached, remove them before storing.
Perfect spinach has crisp, firm leaves. If you’re buying spinach in a plastic bag, check the back and bottom for spoiled leaves, a sure sign the rest of the bag is about to go bad, too.
Strawberries and Raspberries
The best strawberries should smell sweet and have a bright-red hue. Even though big ones look more tempting, the small and medium size ones are the sweetest.
Sugar Snap Peas
You should be able to see the peas through the pod, which should be glossy and semi-translucent. Medium-sized peas will stay fresh longer than large ones.
Whether you’re picking up summer squash or zucchini, choose small and medium ones. The larger they are, the seedier they’ll be. The squash should also be firm and bright.
Ripe tomatoes should have smooth, unbroken skin and a noticeable tomato smell. They should also feel heavy in your hand and give just slightly when squeezed.
The availability of these fresh fruits and vegetables may differ depending on where you live. If you’re in the US, check out this helpful guide to seasonal vegetables by region that will help you know how to choose the freshest spring and summer produce for your area.
– Emily Polson
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