How To Pick Perfectly Ripe Produce

Before you head to the store or farmer’s market, read these tips for picking perfect produce.

Eating more fruits and vegetables is one of the easiest ways to improve your health and reduce the risk of many leading causes of death. Despite powerful reasons to pack your plate with produce, 9 out of 10 adults fall short of the daily recommended number of servings a day (3 ½ to 4 ½ cups for women and 5 to 6 ½ cups for men).

If you’re going to eat more fresh fruit and vegetables, you may be wondering how to pick produce so it’s ripe enough to taste good but not so ripe that you’ll quickly have to throw it in the trash. After all, you don’t want to waste your hard-earned money on food you can’t eat before it goes bad.

Here are tips to help you pick produce with confidence at your local farm stand or supermarket:

Avocados

  • How they look: Dark, firm skin with no dents or soft spots. An avocado with a greenish hue may need to ripen further.
  • How they feel/smell: Gives to gentle pressure.
  • How to store: At room temperature. Eat within a day or two. Or refrigerate ripe avocados for several days to preserve ripeness and prevent spoilage.

Tomatoes

  • How they look: Bright, shiny skin without spots or bruising. 
  • How they feel: Gives slightly to gentle pressure and feels heavy for its size. The stem end will smell sweet and earthy.
  • How to store: At room temperature away from direct sunlight. Do not refrigerate unless necessary to prevent spoilage.

Eggplants

  • How they look: Smooth and shiny skin with a fresh green stem and leaves.
  • How they feel/smell: Heavy for its size. Gives slightly when gently pressed.
  • How to store: In the refrigerator crisper drawer. Eat within five to seven days.

Berries

  • How they look: Bright color to the stem end with no signs of bruising or mold. Berries don’t ripen further once picked.
  • How they feel/smell: Plump and firm, with a sweet and fruity aroma.
  • How to store: Refrigerate and wash just before eating to prevent them from getting moldy. Eat within a few days.

Mangos

  • How they look: The sun-kissed color of the skin is not a good indicator of ripeness. Go by how it feels and smells.
  • How they feel/smell: Gives to gentle pressure. Has a slightly fruity flavor at the stem end.
  • How to store: At room temperature for about one to two days. Refrigerate peeled, cut mangos for up to five days.

Pineapples

  • How they look: Fresh dark green leaves. Avoid those with soft or dark spots and dry looking leaves.
  • How they feel/smell: Heavy for its size with a sweet aroma at the stem end.
  • How to store: At room temperature, but cut and eat as soon as possible. Refrigerate cubed pineapple and eat within three days.

Watermelons

  • How they look: Smooth surface with no cuts or bruises and a yellowish spot from where it sat on the ground during ripening.
  • How they feel/smell: Firm and heavy for its size.
  • How to store: Keep whole watermelon at room temperature and cubed watermelon in the refrigerator for up to five days.


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Date Last Reviewed: June 14, 2021

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Beth Stark, RDN, LDN

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