It’s amazing that you can buy just about any produce item, anytime. Almost all fruit is available year-round, yet, it seems to be a gamble to figure out how to get the best tasting produce. You might be wondering what to look for when shopping for fruit.
How do you know what fruit is ready to eat and what will hold a few days? What if you want organic fruit? How do you get the best value? What is that sticker on the fruit?
It’s super easy to make the best fruit selections when you keep these handy tips in mind:
- Buy fresh and in-season.
- Buy at different stages of ripening.
- Embrace odd looking fruits or vegetables.
- Price check both organic and conventionally grown produce.
- Be mindful of fruit labels.
Fresh is best but how do you know when it’s fresh?
If you want to eat the freshest produce, buy in-season.
This can get tricky since seasons seem to merge together. For example, let’s say you are shopping for fruit looking at all of the apples on display. After all, they are available 365 days of the year.
Do you pick the Canadian, USA, or Chilean apple? How do you pick the one with the most crunch and juiciness?
In the middle of summer, the freshest apples will be from Chile, or any other country in the Southern Hemisphere.
Local Canadian and imported USA apples are both in the Northern Hemisphere, so the ideal time to buy those is from late September onwards, but never in the middle of summer.
If you want to buy summer citrus such as lemons, mandarins or navels, where do they come from? Again, pick Southern Hemisphere countries like Chile and similar regions.
Buy fruit at different stages of ripening
Fruit are living and breathing items, and many continue to develop and change once harvested. If you want your fruit to last as long as possible, learn about those that ripen at different stages.
If you want to have avocado toast right away, pick up a fully ripe one. Also pick a few hard green avocados, plus one or two that are ready to turn in a few days – this way you can have a week’s supply.
Here’s a fun fact: Avocados will only ripen after being picked.
Bananas picked green will continue to ripen.
Do you like a sweet banana? Then allow a few brown spots to develop.
Green kiwifruit, if picked at the right brix (sweetness) level, can be harvested hard and will continue to ripen. Once they feel slightly soft, they are ready to eat.
You can buy your pears when they feel very firm. Most pears ripen from the inside out, so check the neck first. If it feels soft, it is ready to eat. Looking a bit odd on the outside is okay.
Embrace odd looking fruits or vegetables when shopping
That crooked cucumber or that misshapen avocado tastes as good as its perfect cousin.
A scar on an apple or a pear is often caused by a branch rub.
An under-sized or over-sized kiwifruit will taste the same.
Some retailers have their own brands of second-grade produce at slightly better prices. Fruits and vegetables don’t need to look perfect. They might be a bit odd on the outside, but perfect on the inside.
When shopping for fruit, pick the less than perfect fruit or vegetable and eat them with confidence. *Of course, avoid mould or split, moist fruit or too many soft spots or heavy bruising.
Price check both organic and conventionally grown fruit
Oftentimes, grocery stores will offer organic products at a very similar price as conventional, especially when they are on sale. Always take a moment to cross-check the price difference, especially on items like cherries, strawberries and grapes.
Sometimes you will see a produce sign that uses the word transitional. That means that item is on its way to becoming organic. Usually they are priced between conventionally grown and fully organic certified.
Buying organic is good for you, for the farmer and for the planet. But, remember, eating any fruit or vegetable is good for you, whether it is organic, transitional or conventional. If your budget doesn’t allow for organics, reach for conventionally grown.
Be mindful of fruit labels when shopping
If buying packaged produce, especially mixed greens and salads, check packaging date and best before date. If the fruit or vegetables are prepackaged, look very carefully inside the package to make sure the fruit isn’t wet, mouldy or rotten.
Take a moment to check the country of origin. While many stores will list the country of origin on their sign, it is best if you look at the sticker on the fruit – that annoying label you always have to peel off!
If buying organic, confirm that it is certified organic and the label doesn’t just state ‘all natural’, which is not organic.
If you ever noticed, the majority of fresh produce has a sticky label with a 4-digit code on it. If it is organic there will be a 9 in front of the 4 digit code, indicating that it is organically grown.
Looking for a recipe to try? Here’s a great way to add a citrus punch to your salsas!
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Check out ten tips for eating healthy on a budget here.