The Ripe Report: How to Pick the Best Produce

Shopping for produce can be hit or miss. You don’t want to buy something too ripe, risking the inevitable spoil. And you don’t want something that isn’t ripe enough, causing a sub par meal if you’re cooking within the next day or two. Unless you’re a person who can go to the store every few days, squeezing your way through the fruits and vegetables, you’re probably looking for the right balance. I mean, nothing is more tedious than examining 20 avocados for the one that’s bound to make the best guacamole.  So here are some helpful tips for picking the best produce:


Like many areas of life, imperfections are ok. Sometimes the nicest looking foods aren’t the best tasting. Similar to a fine wine, with age they can get better. Take tomatoes, avocados, peaches, and kiwis, for example. You don’t want them mushy and wrinkled, but slightly soft and fragrant. Yes, smell does matter when it comes to picking.

Speaking of smell, you can tell a lot with your sniffer. Especially as we work our way towards summer, the best way to pick a fruit is to smell it and look for a nice aroma. Sweet nectarines, strawberries, and apricots will smell nice long before they are soft enough to eat.

Knowing what’s in season is also important when shopping. Your typical grocery store will carry many fruits and vegetables year round, but they taste much better when they’re in season. You can find out what produce is seasonal right now in your state with this cool interactive map.

Firm is good! When it comes to picking cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower) as well as asparagus, watermelons, celery, blueberries, apples, potatoes, carrots, grapefruits, and many other fruits and vegetables, you want to make sure that they have a nice snap or not too much give. If they wiggle or they’re mushy, they’re no good.

Look for a shine. Especially with fruits, like apples, cherries, and plums–a natural shine will indicate ripeness.

Many fruits and vegetables have their own unique indicators that they’re ripe. You can check out this big list of fruits and vegetables if you’re looking for something particular.

Finally, if you bought produce that is wiggly or mushy, you don’t have to throw it out. It’s still good to use–just maybe not for what you were planning If you want to prepare a zucchini dish and the ones at the market are mushy, get the zucchini and make a delicious zucchini loaf for dessert, then move on to a different vegetable for your side dish.


Literally tons of food gets wasted in this country because it’s bruised or not as firm or crisp as we’d like it. Guess what happens to those fruits and vegetables?? They get thrown out. I encourage you to watch the Food Network special The Big Waste with Bobby Flay, Michael Symon, Ann Burrell and Alex Guarnaschelli. It will change how you grocery shop forever.

Do you have any of your own tips and tricks for picking our produce? Tell me in the comments so I can give it a try.




Photo source: Nugget Market,, FoodNetwork

Gourmet Dad
  • Lemon Meringue

    Whilst living in a part of the world in which the winters are rather harsh and long and the summer is way too short, rootvegetables are a staplefood in our household. Potatoes, onions,winter-carrots, celeriac, turnip, swedes and our fave: parsnips! The best tip I learned from a British chef is to look for a firm parsnip, not too big, which feels heavy for it’s size. This means it isn’t dried out/hollow in the middle.

  • Lauren Elizabeth

    This is great tips. I love/hate the produce department because I get so focused on picking out the best foods. I’ll spend 20 minutes on strawberries, another 10 or so on the root plants, esp potatoes and onions. It drives my family absolutely insane. I’m glad that you wrote this, now I can show them I have the right idea.

  • Mauigirl09

    I just watched “Saving God” and you played an amazing bad guy! I loved the entire movie and message. Even playing the bad guy I loved your performance!

  • Leslie Barnett

    I recently read on-line that when you are picking bell peppers, whether red or green, the peppers with three ribs are sweeter than those with four ribs. Four ribs supposedly are a stronger, less sweet pepper. Now, I had not specifically focused on three or four ribs before, but will now to help pick the sweetest peppers!

  • nonnagina

    I learned the best way to pick out oranges from volunteering with gorillas–they should have a good heft and a smooth skin. It looks a bit odd in the produce department to look like I’m going to juggle while I’m comparing the weight of each orange, but I’m never disappointed. The smooth skin guarantees that the orange won’t be dry with a thick peel that all of the juiciness has disappeared into.