In general, remember that when you're shopping for produce:
- Use all your senses-- sight, smell, taste, and feel. You'll also need your ears to listen to advice.
- While you, as the buyer, have a right to inspect the produce, don't damage it. It is the market's product until you buy it.
- Talk to the person behind the counter. Ask them when it was picked, where it was grown, and what types of fertilizers and pesticides were used. They can also tell you some ways to use the produce.
- If you find a market whose produce you like, get to know them better. Tell them what you use their produce for and what varieties you like. Markets use that feedback to better serve their customers.
- Refrigerate perishable fresh fruits and vegetables (like strawberries, lettuce, herbs, and mushrooms) at a temperature of 40° F or below.
- Cut away any damaged or bruised areas on fresh fruits and vegetables before preparing and/or eating.
- Wash fruits and vegetables under running water just before eating, cutting or cooking. Learning to store produce correctly can save home cooks money and heartache caused by spoiled fruits and vegetables.
- Some fruits and vegetables, such as plums, peaches and bananas, are still ripening in the store.
- The best way to store produce such as potatoes, yams, onions and other root vegetables is at room temperature. Avoid washing root vegetables until needed, since the moisture may encourage rotting.
- A crisper drawer's main advantage when you store produce is a colder air temperature, not the ability to keep crisp leafy vegetables crisp indefinitely.
- Most fruits and vegetables continue to 'breathe' after harvesting, so the perforations in the plastic bags allow for an exchange of gases.
- Organic vegetables grow more slowly so they take up larger quantities of minerals and nutrients from the soil.
There is so much variety in produce these days and knowing when to buy the best produce is important, not only for flavor but for value for your money, as well.
Not only is it more economical to buy fruits and vegetables when they are at their peak harvest time, but you get the best possible quality and flavor for all your cooking adventures.
Eating seasonal produce is a key element of Healthy Eating. The USDA Food Pyramid suggests eating 2-3 servings of fruits and 3-5 vegetable servings a day.
At 4th Generation Organic Market we feel that not just any fruits and vegetables will do. Canned and/or stored fruits lose their health benefits very quickly, so while you are able to eat and enjoy fruit all year, some no longer have the nutrients they did fresh from the ground. By focusing on seasonal produce you ensure that you are getting the most benefit from the foods you are eating. If nothing is in season, which is rare, frozen vegetables are a better option than canned.
Buy in season
Many people believe that fresh fruit is expensive to keep around the house, but that isn’t the case. If you purchase fruit in season, the price of most varieties is fairly reasonable.
Check for ripeness
Once you’ve decided what fruits to purchase, you need to know how to get the best quality. You want a fruit that is relatively bruise-free, and either ripe enough to eat now or in a few days.
When choosing fruit, it’s a touch-feel-smell game. To test for firmness, you have to touch the fruit. Granted, not all the fruit is sold in a ripened state, but a lot of the fruit on the shelf will alreadyhave ripened. Select fruit slightly under ripe with firm unbruised skins.
- Eating fruit is one of the best ways you can help stay healthy and have enough vitamin C in your diet. Fruit is also a good snack to subdue that sweet tooth without reaching for snack goods that are full of processed sugar. The natural sugars in fruit can give you a pick-me-up in the late afternoon when the tiredness hits and you need to make it through to dinner.
- Keep a bowl of whole fruit on the table, counter, or in the refrigerator.
- Refrigerate cut-up fruit to store for later.
- Buy fresh fruits in season when they may be less expensive and at their peak flavor.
- Buy fruits that are dried, frozen, and canned (in water or juice) as well as fresh, so that you always have a supply on hand.
- Consider convenience when shopping. Buy pre-cut packages of fruit (such as melon or pineapple chunks) for a healthy snack in seconds. Choose packaged fruits that do not have added sugars.
- Make most of your choices whole or cut-up fruit rather than juice, for the benefits dietary fiber provides.
- Select fruits with more potassium often, such as bananas, prunes and prune juice, dried peaches and apricots, cantaloupe, honeydew melon, and orange juice.
- When choosing canned fruits, select fruit canned in 100% fruit juice or water rather than syrup.
- Vary your fruit choices. Fruits differ in nutrient content.