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Produce Buying and Storing Guide

Updated on September 6, 2010

Buying fresh produce is crucial to feeding your family well, as the nutritional value and taste of fresh produce is unmatched by either canned or frozen. Sadly, many people shy away from buying fresh produce to the point that, tragically, there are children growing up in America today that do not know even know what fresh produce looks like--a sad truth that I find appalling. This was NOT the case 50 years ago.  The 1950's housewife knew her way around the produce section of her local grocery store. She knew what ripe produce looked like. She held it in her hand, touched it, smelled it, perhaps even tasted it. She knew how to store it once she got home.

This Hub is dedicated to helping the Modern Housewife learn her way around the veggie stand. The lists below provide information on how to buy and store common foods. Print them and take them with you to the store if needed.  Try to buy a variety of fruits an vegetables each week, and don't be afraid to try new ones now and then! 

Fruits

Apples: Rich color, avoid soft, bruised or blemished fruit; store at room temp 1-3 weeks; sprinkle slices with lemon juice to avoid browning

Apricots: Deep color with rosy blush; avoid bruised, soft or shriveled fruit; Store in fridge

Bananas: Firm, uniform color; avoid soft, blemished, or spotted

Berries: Medium sized, uniform color, and solid; avoid berries that have started to juice or mold; store unwashed; spread out in fridge, covered, check frequently for mold

Grapes: Tight clusters on dark green stems; avoid soft or discolored grapes

Honeydew Melon: 5-7 lbs; firm, pale yellow or creamy white; avoid soft, small or greenish fruit; store at room temp until cut, then store covered in fridge

Lemons: Heavy for size; deep yellow color, smooth, thin skin; avoid fruit with greenish tinge or thick skin; store at room temp until cut, then store covered in refridge

Limes: Heavy for size dark green; avoid pale, wrinkled, or soft fruit; storage like lemons

Nectarines: Fruit should be firm, but not hard and have a strong, sweet smell that makes your mouth water; avoid bruised or blemished fruit; store in fridge

Cantaloupe: webbed skin, yellowish coloring underneath, and smoothly rounded depression at ends; should have fragrant aroma; Ripens during storage at room temp; once cut, store covered in fridge

Coconut: Well-rounded, heavy for size; shake fruit and listen for sloshing sound; avoid soft or greenish fruit; store at room temp, once cut store covered in fridge

Crenshaw Melon: Look for bright, yellowish-green or yellow fruit; should be firm and pear shaped; avoid mostly green, shrunken or misshapen fruit; store at room temp until cut, then covered in fridge

Oranges and grapefruit: Should seem heavy for its size, with smooth, thin skin; avoid withered or discolored fruit; store at room temp or in fridge

Peaches: Look for firm, rosy blush colored fruits and avoid blemished, green tinted, or bruised fruit; smell fruit and pick out the most fragrant; store in fridge

Pears: Choose slightly underripe, slightly yellow fruits. Store at room temp to ripen (fruit will turn yellow and be slightly soft at stem end); store covered in fridge once cut

Plums: Look for purple, red, yellow, or pale green fruits that are uniform in color. Fruit should be firm but not hard; avoid soft, wrinkled or spotted fruit; store uncovered in fridge or ripen at room temp

Pineapple: Look for small, tight crown and sweet fragrance; center leaves should come out easily; avoid greenish fruits, those with fermented odor, and those whose leaves dont pull out; store at room temp until cut, then covered in fridge

Pumelos: Look for uniform color, fruits should be firm, but not hard and smell sweet. Store on counter to ripen if needed and then in refrigerator.   

Watermelon: Look for rounded, smooth surface, avoid shiny surface, creamy color on underside only; store like other melons



For more information about using fruits and vegetables, check out these great books

Keep Cut produce covered in containers or bags to maintain freshness

Vegetables

Artichokes: Look for small, tightly closed leaves of uniform color; avoiding leaves that are spreading.  Store in Fridge

Asparagus: Look for tender, firm tips about 6-8 inches long; avoid whitish stalks.  use within 1-3 days to avoid toughening and store covered in fridge 

Avocado: Look for dark smooth or pebbled skin; ripe when yields to gentle pressure.  Store on counter to ripen, and then in fridge; sprinkle with lemon juice once cut.   

Beans (like green beans):  Look for young, small and tender beans, avoiding large, dry looking beans; store covered in fridge

Bell Pepper: Firm, thick walls, deep color; avoid peppers that are wrinkled, soft, or have ineven color; store covered in fridge

Broccoli: Look for tight, closed buds, avoid yellowed buds or spots; Store covered in fridge

Brussel Sprouts: look for firm, tight, deep green heads, avoiding those that are wilting; store covered in fridge

Cabbage: Pick small light to bright green heads that are heavy for size; avoiding those with holes; store in fridge

Carrots: brightly colored; under 6" long and 1" around; store either in fridge or at room temp 

Cauliflower: look for white, well-formed and tight flower clusters; avoid dark or smudgy spots; store covered in fridge

Celery: Light, pale green; avoid dark celery; store in paper bag in fridge

Corn: Silk is dry; juice in kernel "pops" when pricked; store husked in fridge

Cucumbers: Medium to dark green, long and slender; firm; avoid wrinkled skin, soft; Store covered in fridge

Eggplant: Glossy shine, deep purple color, firm; avoid green spots; store covered in fridge 

Lettuce: Heavy for size, feels full; avoid bitter smell or wilted heads; store in paper bag in fridge

Lima beans: look for well-filled, firm pods; avoid yellowed or bulging, dry or flabby pods; Store covered in fridge

Mushrooms: Lightly colored, tightly closed, round stem; avoid discolored, spotted, woody or decaying; store covered in fridge

Okra: Pods 203" long, uniform color, avoiding soft,shriveled or discolored okra; store at room temp

Parsnips: Small, uniform, tannish-yellow color; avoid large, soft or woody; store at room temp or in fridge 

Peas: Small pods; well filled, deep green; avoid withered, yellow or dry peas; store in fridge, covered once hulled

Potatoes: look for firm, even colored; avoid rot, green color (indicates poison) sprouted eyes (sprouts are poisonous); store in cool, dark place

Spinach: Look for dark green, uniform color, avoid spots, glossy, or wet looking leave; store covered in fridge and wash well; the tend to hold on to dirt.

Squash: Look for small, tender, easily pierced(summer) hard rinds (winter); avoid watery or soft spots, dried up stems

Sweet potatoes: Rose to brown color, avoid shriveled or blackened; Store in dark cool place

Tomatoes: Firm but yields to pressure; heavy for size; deep, uniform red color; avoid mushy, extremely hard or light for size; store at room temp to ripen; covered in fridge once cut

Onions: look for Full, firm, and slightly flat onions; Store in a dark place at room temp


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