Sustainability| 2 min read

How To: Buy Fresh Vegetables

If you’re anything like me, stocking up on produce can be a tricky business.

If you’re anything like me, stocking up on produce can be a tricky business. I always try to load up on lots of leafy greens, berries and legumes, leaving the grocery store feeling self-righteous and healthy. But it seems too often that my produce goes bad before I get to use them, and it’s never the same fruit or veggie twice.

Take avocados, for example – my mortal enemy. I’ll wait so patiently for an avocado to ripen, giving it just one tender, loving squeeze every day. Then I’ll accidentally forget about it over the weekend, only to find the avocado has already turned brown inside. Well, no guacamole tonight I’m afraid.

I’ve finally relinquished, turning to the Internet for a few tips and tricks. Here’s what I found in my research on how to buy the freshest fruits and vegetables:

• Follow your senses. It’s important to touch and smell everything. Fruits and melons should always get a quick whiff, and anything with the slightest funky odour shouldn’t go in the grocery basket. Visible bumps, bruises and insect damage on the outside surface are also a no go. Anything with green leaves should be crisp and firm.

• Don’t squeeze. Back in the day, it was common to give produce (like mangoes and those evil avocados) a press to test out their freshness. Evidently, this isn’t actually a good practice at all, as it can actually do more harm by causing internal bruising. What’s best is to turn the item over in your hands, looking for a firm but not entirely hard surface. If you feel pits and dents underneath the top layer, there’s already damage, most likely due to shipping. Weight is a good indicator in fruits – heaviness indicates more juice in the case of watermelons and cantaloupe.

When it comes to my nemesis, the avocado, it turns out they are best examined by their colour – dark green or green-black when ripe. If you must squeeze, only do so carefully to prevent bruising.

• The firmer, the better. Depending on what it is, even the slightest softness can mean there’s slow rotting or bruising that’s already taking place. Some vegetables like cucumbers, beets, onions and potatoes should always be as firm as possible. Check out this guide from What’s Cooking America for individual breakdowns of what to look for.

• Buy some under-ripe. Are you going to be eating those tomatoes tonight? If not, perhaps it’s best to buy some that are slightly under-ripe as opposed to ready-to-eat. The same goes for many other soft fruits, too.

• Go organic. This is perhaps the best thing I learned. Organic produce can go rotten faster because it’s pesticide-free, but maybe that’s not such a bad thing. I was shocked to find out from consumer reports that 94.5 percent of celery and 79.3 percent of potatoes on the market contain pesticides. Not only that, but the majority of non-organic produce are also cross-contaminated. If cost is an issue, buy only produce with a high contamination rate from the organic aisle. Those items will surely taste better, and be healthier in the long run!


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