Sometimes the produce section of the grocery store can be overwhelming! I’ve put together some tips about specific produce to help guide you. You’ll also look really cool when you shop if you follow these guidelines – trust me. You’ll be weighing/comparing, squeezing, pressing, sniffing – you name it! But honestly, please don’t be afraid to use these techniques to ensure you’re purchasing the best produce you can for your money.
An important rule of thumb is to shop fresh fruits and vegetables that are IN SEASON. This will yield tastier results for less money, and who doesn’t want that?
A sweet bell pepper should be firm and glossy with smooth skin. It should feel slightly heavy for its size as you want it to be thick walled and juicy. You can tell the gender of a bell pepper by it’s shape, size and number of bumps on the bottom. A female pepper is squatter, rounder, sweeter and has four bumps on the bottom. They are better for eating raw as they are sweeter. A male bell pepper is usually longer and only has three bumps on the bottom, they are less sweet but hold up better in the heat and are better to cook with.
All melons should be quite heavy. A heavier melon is a sweeter and juicier melon. Check the blossom end of a honeydew or cantaloupe, (not the stem end) and press gently with your finger, if it gives way under a little pressure it means that the fruit is mature and good for eating. You can also smell the melon, if it’s slightly sweet smelling it will be perfect. If it’s too strong and almost sickeningly sweet – it’s likely overripe. You can also knock on watermelons in the grocery store, and be sure to listen for a thud which indicates readiness. Once you get home store any melon on the counter rather than in the fridge, research shows that storage at room temperature may even help keep the antioxidants better intact. Once cut, store in the fridge.
Choose tomatoes that are deeply coloured and firm. Avoid bruised or wrinkled skin, as these are signs of wear and tear, and age. Smell the stem and sniff for a deep, earthy, woody and sweet smell. Once you get home, store them on the counter rather than the fridge. Chilled tomatoes get dull and mealy quickly. If you buy them slightly underripe and wish to hasten the ripening process you can leave them on a window sill. Or you can store them in a pierced brown paper bag with an apple. The apple will emit ethylene gas which acts as a ripening agent. If your tomatoes are getting too ripe it might be time to make some easy roasted tomato sauce!
Weight is another quick check for lemons – the heavier the better. Don’t be afraid to pick up and compare multiple fruits. Make sure the skin is clear of blemishes and gives a little when you squeeze gently. A lemon that is slightly easier to squeeze will have less pith and be juicier. Lemons last much longer (about a month) when refrigerated in a sealed plastic bag, in comparison to sitting in a pretty bowl on your counter. Lemons can last for about a week at room temperature before becoming hard. If you do end up with hard lemons that you still wish to use, just roll them on your counter with some firm pressure from the heel of your hand. This will help break up some of the membranes inside. I would also strongly recommend using a citrus press to get the most out of your lemons. (Read my citrus press review here!)
So that’s all I can think of for now, do you guys have any produce selection tips and tricks? Have you had strangers give you the side-eye at the grocery store when you knock on watermelons?