The quality of the fruits and vegetables you buy can make or break a dish. Imagine the sweetest, juiciest summer peach you've ever had, and think about how good it would taste in a freshly baked pie. I'm guessing you can also visualize the hard, flavourless peaches from the grocery store. We've all encountered them. If you think about it, it makes sense that those peaches can't deliver the same amazing pie. It has nothing to do with the recipe!
We've all experienced the frustration of bringing home fruits or vegetables only to discover that they're rotten on the inside, or that they need days to ripen. Your grocery list can be a great starting point if you want to study up on a few items before shopping.
They should be firm and smooth. Gently press a small area of the fruit's skin, and avoid anything noticeably soft, wrinkled, bruised or discolored.
To tell how ripe they are, look at colour and firmness. Ripe Hass avocados have a dark green, almost black skin, and they give just slightly when you press. Underripe avocados will be hard, while overripe avocados will feel mushy, and the skin might feel like it's separating from the flesh inside.
Seasonal berries will always have the best flavour. You want bright colours, firmness, a sweet smell and zero visible decay. Since berries are typically sold in clamshell packaging, check the bottoms for liquid or mould. At farmers markets, berries are often sold in open containers, where it's easier to spot issues.
Avoid broccoli with pale or yellow spots. A strong smell is also a sign that the broccoli is old. The stalks should be firm, with green, crisp leaves. Florets should be dark green.
Look for bright, smooth and firm carrots, with no limpness or visible cracks. Ideally, the leafy green tops will still be attached since those are a good indicator of freshness. The bulk bin is your best bet, instead of bagged carrots.
Look for vibrant colours and fruit that's firm but just slightly tender. If the fruit is too firm, it might be lacking in juice. Skip citrus with bruised surfaces that are dull in colour and/or mushy. Heft can be an indication of juicy fruit.
Bulbs should be plump and firm. The papery outer skins should be intact. The garlic should not have an odour. Avoid anything soft or with green sprouts.
Look for bright, crisp, full leaves with a consistent colour. Avoid anything slimy or wilted.
Avoid mushrooms with a fishy odour, slimy exterior or noticeable discolouration. While there's sometimes a bit of natural texture (oyster mushrooms), fresh mushrooms will generally have firm, smooth caps and stems.
Look for onions that are firm and heavy, with their papery skins intact. Avoid anything that is sprouting, soft or that has an odour.
Local, seasonal peaches will always have the best flavour. Select fragrant, colourful peaches that are mostly firm but slightly soft to the touch.
Both bell and chilli peppers should have smooth surfaces and vibrant colours. They should feel firm. Avoid anything wrinkled or bruised.
Look for firm potatoes without wrinkled skins, sprouting eyes or a green tinge.
Summer squash (zucchini, yellow squash, pattypan) will have glossy skin, bright colour and fresh appearance. There should be no wrinkles or mushy spots.
Seasonal, locally grown tomatoes will always have the best flavour. Look for smooth, unbroken skin. Tomatoes should be slightly soft but not mushy.
When selecting winter squash (pumpkin, butternut, acorn), look for a hard rind. You want something that seems heavy for its size, because in this case, weight is a good indicator of quality.
The Washington Post