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Five Ways to Score the Absolute Freshest Produce at the Farmers' Market
Darya Rose, Ph.D is the author ofFoodist: Using Real Food and Real Science to Lose Weight Without Dietingand creator of the award winning blog Summer Tomato.
While feasting your eyes on the explosion of delicious-looking fruits and veggies at the farmers' market, it's easy to forget that everything isn't 100% perfection. But just like the foods in your grocery store's produce section, local cherries, figs, and tomatoes deserve a thorough inspection, too. Use these guidelines to make sure you're toting home the freshest, tastiest foods possible.
1. Look for bright color.
Fresh, ripe produce typically has a bright radiant color, and you will find yourself naturally drawn to these items. A duller color can indicate that the item was harvested too early, or that it has been sitting around for a while. This applies to both the skin or body of the item, as well as the stem and leaves. For example, fresh cherries should have bright green stems rather than dull brown ones.
2. Pick the heavier piece of fruit.
For fruits and dense vegetables, heavier is better. A heavy piece of fruit, for example, will be juicier and more flavorful than a less heavy fruit of the same size, which may not be fully ripe. Weigh a few different pieces in your hands to find the best one.
MORE:What's Better: Organic or Heirloom?
3. Feel for firmness.
Freshly picked produce is best firm, but not hard, squishy, or limp. Hardness is an indicator that fruit might not be fully ripe, while softness typically means it is past its prime or has been stored improperly. There are exceptions to this, particularly if you prefer very ripe, sweet fruit. Figs, for example, are often best when very soft and gooey.
4. Sniff for fragrant aroma.
For fruits in particular, scent is a good indication of how the fruit will taste. The part of the fruit that was attached at the stem will often be the most fragrant part, so if you have trouble finding a smell, start there. If there is no scent at all, it is probably not ready to eat. The most fragrant fruits will be the ripest, and should be eaten sooner.
MORE:The Scary Truth about GMO Labeling
5. Check for blemishes.
Not all blemished or bruised produce is bad, and sometimes you can get a fantastic deal from a farmer if you're willing to purchase "cosmetically challenged" fruits or vegetables. But keep in mind that blemishes will prevent your produce from lasting as long at home, so plan to use imperfect purchases within a day or two.
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