What’s Ripe?: How to Effectively Indulge in Summer Produce

If you’re anything like me, the produce section of the grocery store is where you spend the bulk of your shopping trip. I find myself perusing fruits and vegetables meticulously, examining every last tomato on the shelf, or searching for the perfect cantaloupe with no real sense of direction. Produce can be expensive, and on a college budget, there’s nothing worse than stocking up only to realize that you’ve made bad selections, resulting in quickly rotting fruit you don’t have time to eat or unsuitable veggies that aren’t quite ready for consumption.

Never fear, however, because there are some quick tips and tricks to allow you to indulge in the best summer produce your local grocery store has to offer.

**Tips & Tricks**

Ripen After Picking? While the majority of fruits and vegetables continue to ripen after they’ve made it into your grocery bag, a select few varieties only ripen before they are picked. These produce all-stars such as grapefruit, oranges, watermelon, lemons, limes, and pineapple make easy no-pressure additions to any shopping list.

How will you know? Color, weight, and smell are the three easiest ways to judge ripeness on the spot. Ripe fruits and vegetables will have full color. For example, a cantaloupe’s skin should not be green. Also, you should always buy fruit that feels heavy for its size–this clues you into how juicy that item will be. Lastly, follow your nose. A tomato that smells like a tomato is ripe. Trust your instincts.

But what’s in season? Just because something isn’t “in season” doesn’t mean you can’t eat it and that it won’t be fabulous. But college is all about getting the best bang for your buck, and with respect to ripe produce, buying in-season is definitely your best bet. The best summer produce options include green beans, berries, corn, tomatoes, peaches (my personal favorite) and plums, broccoli, eggplant, zucchini, and watermelon.

Storage? In the fridge. One week. If you remember that, you’ll be good for almost anything! (Exception: corn is best when fresh, don’t keep it longer than a couple days; berries and tomatoes also taste best un-refrigerated.)

Shannon Kelley is pursuing a graduate degree in education at Truman State University in Kirksville, MO. Her vices include good Italian food, snacks of all kind, and storytelling with friends.

Originally posted on Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

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