There's nothing like a perfectly luscious strawberry, crisp apple, or juicy watermelon. Besides shopping for fruits at their peak season, it helps to know how to spot – and smell and feel – the very best at your local farmers' market or grocery store. Here's how…
What You Need
• Apples: Choose fruits that are deeply colored, firm, naturally shiny, and heavy for their size.
• Apricots: Choose fruits that are fragrant and slightly soft but not mushy.
• Bananas: Choose bright yellow bananas to eat right away or green bananas to ripen at home. Avoid fruits that are bruised or split.
• Blueberries: Choose berries that are firm, dry, and blue (not red or green). A white sheen is natural. Also check the bottom of the basket to make sure there aren't any crushed or spoiled berries.
• Cantaloupes: Choose fruits that are fragrant and cream or golden in color (not green). Avoid fruits with soft spots, although the end opposite the stem should be slightly soft.
• Cherries: Choose berries that are plump, shiny, and darker in color. Cherries with intact stems have a longer shelf life.
• Figs: Choose soft, plump fruits with intact, bent stems. Minor bruises or tears are usually harmless, but avoid buying dry, cracked figs.
• Grapefruits: Choose fruits that have smooth, thin skins and are heaviest for their size. They should feel firm but slightly springy to the touch. Don't worry about color.
• Grapes: Choose fruits that are firm, plump, and heavy for their size. They should be firmly attached to the stems without wrinkled or brown spots.
• Kiwi Fruits: Choose fruits that give slightly when pressed. Avoid fruits that are either rock hard or mushy.
• Lemons and Limes: Choose fruits that are fragrant and heaviest for their size. Avoid fruits that are shriveled.
• Mangoes: Choose fruits that are slightly soft to the touch and fragrant near the stem end.
• Oranges: Choose fruits that heaviest for their size and have firm, smooth skins. Don't worry about color. For Mandarin oranges, make sure skins are firm, not shriveled.
• Peaches: Choose fragrant, deeply colored (not green) fruits that are firm but slightly soft to the touch.
• Pears: Pears are usually picked before they are fully ripe, but choose fruits that are free of bruises and look for any that are getting soft just below the stem. Ripen them at room temperature; placing them in a paper bag speeds up the process.
• Persimmons: Choose fruits that are deep orange or red in color. Fuyu types should be firm but not rock-hard. Hachiya types should be soft and squishy or kept at room temperature for a week or two until they soften. Dark spots caused by by sunburn are harmless unless the flesh is sunken or broken.
• Pineapples: Choose fruits that smell sweet at the stem end, have fresh looking leaves, and are heavy for their size. Avoid fruits with soft spots or dry, brown leaves.
• Plums: Choose fruits that are deeply colored, shiny, and firm but not rock hard. A white or gray sheen is natural.
• Pomegranates: Choose fruits that are heavy for their size. Cracks are a good sign that the fruits are bursting with plump seeds; just make sure there isn't any mold in the cracks.
• Quinces: Choose fruits that are firm and golden in color.
• Strawberries: Choose berries that are fragrant, uniformly red (not yellow or green), and shiny with fresh green tops. Also check the bottom of the basket to make sure there aren't any crushed or spoiled berries.
• Watermelons: Choose fruits that are firm and heavy and sound hollow when thumped. A properly ripened watermelon should have a yellow spot on one side where it sat on the ground.
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(Images: Emily Ho, Emily Ho, Faith Durand, Joanna Miller, USDA, Emily Ho, Emily Ho, Faith Durand, Emily Ho, Emily Ho, Kathryn Hill, Flickr member visualdensity licensed under Creative Commons, Emily Ho, Emily Ho, Emily Ho, Emily Ho, Flickr member visualdensity licensed under Creative Commons, Emily Ho, Emily Ho, Faith Durand, Emily Ho, Faith Durand)