How to choose the best (and freshest) produce
We've partnered with Nonilo to share tips and tricks that'll help you on your culinary journey — starting with the basics, like how to confidently choose the freshest fruits and vegetables.
When faced with a wide array of fruits and vegetables, we tend to just choose what looks the best of the bunch. Sourcing the best produce does not always come easily for everyone, especially when you’re just starting out in the kitchen.
I know I’ve grappled with my own supermarket anxiety when faced with a stack of fruits and vegetables just ripe for the taking. I wanted to get the most out of my budget and choose the best produce. But I would often wonder: just because produce looks and smells fresh, is it really fresh?
So I thought it would help to come up with a quick guide to some of the most common fruits and vegetables our favourite recipes require, based on what I have learned during numerous trips to the market.
Fresh apples have a rich, deep coloring; they are also firm and heavy. Note if the exterior is shiny or not. If yes, then they’re ready for consumption.
To pick out fresh artichokes, choose those that are heavy for their size with tight, intact leaves.
Fresh asparagus are bright in color, smooth, and not limp when held. Go for stalks with closed tips and stems that are rounded and firm.
The best way to tell if apricots are fresh is to sniff them. Fresh apricots are fragrant. Press them lightly, too. If they’re fresh, then they should not be too soft.
To tell if avocados are fresh, note the color of the skin. If it’s gone from deep green to black, then they’re ripe. Feel the exterior, too. If it’s soft and not too dented or bruised, you’re in the clear.
If you plan to eat them immediately, then go for the bright yellow variety. But if you want to let them ripen at home, go for green bananas. Don’t mind the dark discoloration on the exterior, but do be careful not to buy ones that are overly bruised or split open.
If you’re shopping for mature bok choy, make sure to pick ones that have dark green leaves and white stalks. As for baby bok choy, light green leaves signal that they’re fresh.
Fresh broccoli have tight florets, firm stalks, and green leaves. Don’t buy yellowish ones or broccoli whose florets are splayed far apart.
Inspect if the cabbages are quite heavy for their size; the heads should be firm, with no visible darkening.
To tell if carrots are fresh, go for ones that are vibrantly orange, smooth, firm and not visibly bruised or cracked all over.
Fresh cauliflower have tight (not flowering), white florets that are not yellowing or browning.
To tell if corn is a-ok, inspect if the kernels look fresh and not dry. Note that the husks should be bright green not sticky to the touch.
Basically, ripe cucumbers are firm to the touch, with no sunken tips or bruising. They should also be medium to dark green in color and not yellowing.
To tell if eggplants are ripe, first note the skin. Is it glossy? If yes, then they’re fresh. Remember that the flesh of ripe eggplants are soft, firm. They should also be heavy for their size. When overripe, eggplants are easily indented. Conversely, unripe ones are too hard.
A fresh head of garlic is firm to the touch with no soft spots or green discoloration.
Fresh grapes are plump and not wrinkled with smooth surfaces free from any dark spots or holes.
Steer clear of dry, darkened pods with holes. Fresh green beans snap easily.
To tell if kiwis are fresh, they should neither be too hard nor too soft. Use your thumb to feel if there some resistance. If it’s too hard, you can allow them to ripen at home, just like bananas.
To choose the best lemons from a bunch, go for the fragrant ones that are not shrunken. They should also feel full and heavy for their size when handled.
The best, freshest, leafy greens, have crisp leaves that are not wilted or browning.
Fresh mangoes are slightly soft, fragrant, and they’re not too soft or easily bruised.
Fresh melons have no visible bruising, mold, or cracks. When you feel around its exterior, it should have no soft spots.
Honeydews in particular should have a pale to light yellow color. When inspecting cantaloupes or honeydew, focus on the round section where it was once attached. It should be soft, fragrant, and sweet smelling.
Fresh onions are heavy for their size, firm to the touch, and dry, with not too much moisture, cracks, or dark spots.
The freshest oranges have skin that’s firm and smooth. Color isn’t really an issue.
To pick the best peaches, go for those that are rich in color, fragrant, slightly soft (not too soft) to the touch. Steer clear if they’re greenish in colour.
No scent? Then, pineapples aren’t ripe just yet. Check the color that comes from the base of of the fruit. The more golden-yellow it becomes as it rises, the sweeter it will be.
Fresh pears look smooth. They’re soft, but firm to the touch with no bruising or mold.
Fresh bell peppers possess a natural sheen and vibrant colours. When held, they are firm and heavy for their size. Green stems are a good sign.
The best potatoes to choose are the ones that are firm to the touch, not easily bruised. Avoid potatoes with sprouts or green spots!
To pick out the best type of radish, go for those with crisp, green leaves, no mold, wrinkles, or cracks. They should also be firm and heavy for their size. Avoid those with wilted roots.
Also known as green onions, fresh scallions have white to pale green bulbs with unwilted tops. Choose those with firm, crisp bulbs to make sure you get the best kind.
The freshest shallots are not dry and feel heavy for their size. Make sure they are firm with no soft spots.
They should be vibrant in colour, fresh, and glossy. Strawberries along with other types of berries are prone to mold and discolouration because they’re high in moisture, so be sure to choose berries with no fuzzy parts. Don’t buy too many so as to avoid spoiling.
Fresh, sweet potatoes have even-coloured skin that’s firm and smooth to the touch. If you want creamier sweet potatoes, go for ones that are small to medium in size.
Go for round, plump tomatoes with smooth skin and no blemishes or bruising. The scent of fresh tomatoes should be subtle and sweet.
Inspect the roots. They should not have any mold. Fresh turnips should be smooth and firm to the touch.
One way to test if watermelons are fresh would be tap it with the palm of your hand. If it has a hollow sound, then you’re good.
We hope you found this simple guide on choosing produce that’s truly fresh anytime of year helpful! Remember: being a savvy shopper is always in season.
Nonilo is an upcoming Asian food & home content and community platform that aims to jumpstart the creative spark within every Asian woman. Follow them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/nonilodotcom/.