It's that glorious time of year you've been waiting for, when crates of snack-friendly clementines are stacked up tall all around the produce section. Instead of just picking up the crate at the top of the pile, here are seven things to check for to ensure you bring home the best box of clementines.
1. Time your purchase wisely.
As with many things in life, timing is everything when it comes to buying clementines. They reach peak season, and are at the top of their game in terms of flavor, from December through February. It's not uncommon for them to hit stores much earlier, but they still have some time before they reach their prime.
2. Choose the crate with smaller fruits.
Notice the size of the fruits in the crate. Clementines should be small (on average two to three inches in diameter). These small clementines are packed with more vibrant flavor. Avoid crates with larger fruit, as those pieces tend to contain flesh that's less desirable in taste and texture.
3. Flip that crate upside down.
Every now and then you'll find yourself with a moldy clementine or two. Save yourself the disappointment by inspecting the crate thoroughly before you get home. Flip it upside down and jostle it around a bit to make sure you're getting the best specimens as possible.
4. Look for a shiny, uniform orange color.
Choose a crate of clementines that have fruits with a glossy, uniform, bright-orange color all around. Avoid crates that contain fruit with blemishes, dull spots, and signs of green near the stem or on the skin that look a little tough. Clementines should have soft, think skin.
5. Feel for firmness.
You won't be able to feel all the clementines in the crate, but the mesh covering is usually loose enough that you can at least feel some of the fruit towards the top. Clementines shouldn't be soft or mushy. The best of the bunch are firm, with a little bit of give.
6. Feel for heaviness.
Again, this is a little tricker to test when the clementines are crate-bound, but you can usually wiggle a few fingers through the mesh covering to get a sense of the weightiness of the fruit at the top. The best clementines feel heavy for their size. Avoid crates that contain clementines that feel ultra-light.
7. Trust your nose.
Let your nose guide the way. When you find a truly ripe crate of clementines, you won't be able to miss the sweet scent of citrus that comes wafting out.