Shopping for delicious and tasty fruit in the supermarket often feels like a scary adventure. There are four important things to consider when choosing fruit: color, texture, aroma, and weight. Some fruits like bananas and apples continue to ripen after harvest. Others, such as oranges, grapes, and strawberries, cease the ripening process once they are picked. Many fruits have a peak season, and others are available year-round. Because of these oddities, it’s important to know a bit about how to choose your favorite fruits at the market.
Watermelon, a refreshing summer staple, grows from April through November. The best time to buy this fruit is from May to August. To determine ripeness, consider the field spot, the part of the watermelon that touches the ground while it is growing. If that spot is a creamy yellow, it is ripe and ready to eat. Another way to determine ripeness is to thump the rind, which produces a hollow sound if the melon is ready. Also, the heavier the melon feels, the juicier it is. Watermelon does not ripen once picked, so store at room temperature until sliced, then refrigerate.
Despite a slightly intimidating outer appearance, pineapple is considered the diva of fruit. Unripe pineapples have no scent, while old ones smell vinegary rather than sweet. When leaves are bronzed or red and have dry leaves, the pineapple is overripe. The perfect pineapple feels firm, but yields to a gentle squeeze, and the heavier it feels, the more juice it contains. Pineapples do not ripen after harvest so be sure to leave the store with the freshest one. The best time to buy pineapples is from April through May.
Avocados are available year-round, and they continue to ripen at room temperature. You can slow down the ripening process with refrigeration. To determine an avocado’s maturity, flick the dry stem off with your finger. If the space beneath the stem is dark brown, the fruit is overripe. If that space is green or golden, that avocado is good to go. Ripe avocados have a firm texture that yields slightly to finger pressure without feeling mushy.
A slightly fuzzy peach is ripe when it’s tender to the touch, but not too soft. Ripe peaches smell as good as they taste, juicy and sweet. Supermarket peaches typically are red where there was sun exposure, and the rest of the skin is light orange or yellow. Peaches grow from May to October, but the best time to buy them is from mid-to-late summer.
Prime navel oranges have a bright, thin and firm skin with no soft spots. If the skin is pale, the orange is too ripe, and if the skin looks leathery, it’s too old. Do a sniff test at the supermarket because a fragrant orange tastes as delicious as it smells. The heavier the fruit, the more juice it contains. Navel oranges are available all year but at their best between November and January. Temple oranges and honey tangerines, available from December to March, are easy to peel and make great snacks.
Coconuts are at their prime between October and December. Mature coconuts have a brown husk; green ones are immature. To determine ripeness, locate the three “eyes” on the bottom of the fruit. Compared to the outer shell, these eyes feel slightly soft and dry to the touch. Always examine the coconuts for cracks, holes and splits to ensure inner fruit is not damaged. If you can hear the fluid sloshing inside when you shake the fruit, the coconut is ripe.
A ripe cantaloupe smells sweet with a slightly musky scent. If the stem is still attached, the fruit is not ripe. The netting-patterned rind of a ripe melon gives slightly to the touch, and when tapped it sounds hollow. You can ripen a cantaloupe at room temperature for two days and refrigerate a whole one for up to five days. For full flavor, the best time to buy cantaloupe is from June through August.
Plump, firm and fully ripe strawberries have a rich red hue and a captivating bouquet. This popular summer fruit is best to eat between April and October. Strawberries are ripe if there are no white patches or green color under the leaves. Avoid berries that have bruises or wrinkles. Once home keep the berries clean, dry and refrigerate to resist mold.
Mangos are sweeter near the end stems, so rely on touch rather than color. When pressed with your finger, the flesh is soft enough to have a slight imprint. Mangos are available all year, and the common Mexican and Florida mangos are best between May and September. Mangos continue to ripen at room temperature, so eat as soon as the fruit is adequately ripened or refrigerate.
The pinnacle of cherry ripeness is from April to July. Fully ripe cherries have a bright green stem that is still attached to the fruit. The skin is a deep red, and the flesh is firm with no bruising or spots. Check for damage from insects or pitted skin, which is caused by dehydration. If the stems are gone or the fruit is nearly purple, the fruit is too ripe. Bag and store unwashed cherries in the refrigerator.