Give the fruit a smell. However, there’s no need to hold it directly up to your nose, but you should pick up a light aroma from it. A strong aroma can indicate over-ripeness, and if the fruit smells a bit sour or stinky, you’re probably holding an apple or bag of grapes that’s past its prime. A light, sweet smell is a good indicator that your fruit is fresh and ripe. Smell is particularly important when it comes to melons and pineapple, which can smell very strongly past their prime, so the lighter and sweeter the better.
GUIDE ON HOW TO SELECT GOOD PRODUCE:
The most important thing to remember when inspecting produce is to use your senses. Ask yourself how the item smells, how it feels, and whether it looks appealing.
FRUITS: Before you start squeezing every fruit, pick it up and turn it over in your hands. The surface should be largely smooth and even, with a firm, but not rock hard surface. If you feel pits and dents under the surface, the flesh of the fruit has probably been damaged by shipping, or is slowly rotting. The flesh should be firm, but have some give in it. If your plums, berries, or nectarines are rock hard, they’re not ripe. Citrus fruits that are too firm are likely dry on the inside. Also, pay attention to weight: heaviness can indicate how juicy a fruit or melon, especially with oranges, lemons, watermelon, and cantaloupe.
Tree-ripened fruit should have even coloration across the surface, and avoid anything with dark marks and spots, or citrus fruits with white streaks or colors on the surface. Melons don’t give too many visual or color cues, but look for the obvious: bruises, dents, and other pockmarks. Don’t dismiss a vine-ripened melon because of a little scarring on one side. As long as it’s not tender or thinner than the rest of the rind, it’s likely only the place where the melon rested on the ground while ripening.
VEGETABLES: Some of the same rules for fruit apply to vegetables. Pay attention to the surface of the vegetable and make sure it’s consistent, evenly colored, and firm all the way around. With most vegetables like cucumbers, peppers, onions, and potatoes, you want them to be as firm as possible. Even the gentle give you look for in fruit can indicate over-ripeness vegetables. Softness in specific areas is generally an indicator of slow rotting or bruising, even if you don’t see anything obvious that would indicate spoilage.
With leafy greens like lettuce and kale, look for firm, crisp, and plump leaves that are consistently colored. Expect a little brownness and a few tears in the leaves due to shipping or handling, but they should be the exception, not the rule. The majority of the leaves should be green, smooth, and unbroken. You also want to make sure that the leaves give a good snap if you break one. Look for the same plumpness and crispness with green or string beans or peas in the pod.
Root vegetables like potatoes, garlic, and onions should be firm and tough, as well. Avoid root vegetables with cracks on the base, this means it’s too dry. Most vegetables don’t give you clues to their ripeness by smell the way that fruits do, but you’ll know the vaguely stinky smell of slow rot or mold when you smell it – steer clear if something doesn’t smell right.