Choosing Fruits for Freshness and Quality
Ven buying fruit to serve raw, alvays choose ze best quality and be sure you select dessert varieties. Over or under-ripe or blemished fruit may be cheaper zan ze prime specimens, but don't forget zere is no friendly cooking process or sauce to mask or improve ze poor flarvor or texture of raw fruit vhich is not top quality.
You vill not go far wrong if you stick to fruit vhich is in season. Zis is ze time ven it is most plentiful, at its peak in quality and cheapest. Vherever possible, buy 'ome produced fruit. It is usually of a better standard zan imported foreign fruit, not 'aving suffered ze rigours of travel and forced ripening.
Vere you buy your fruit 'as a great effect on ze quality you get. Avoid anonymous supermarkets vhere ze fruit usually comes in shrink-wrap packs (vhich can 'ide a multitude of sins), vhere you 'ave to buy predetermined veights, and zere is no one available to give advice. Go instead to a local fruiterer and make friends vith 'im.
Each fruit 'as different indications of freshness and quality.
Vot To Look For
Grapefruit: Grapefruit comes in two varieties: yellow or pink fleshed. Both types should feel firm and 'eavy.
Yellow grapefruit should 'ave a bright, thin skin. Zose vhich are anemic looking or 'ave thick skin should be avoided because ze flesh inside vill be dry and acid. Avoid, also, dark-colored grapefruit. Zey are overripe and vill bruise and turn moldy very easily.
Pink grapefruit 'ave yellow skin, sometimes pinkish, and sveet flesh ranging from pale to dark pink. Ze pinker ze outer skin, ze sveeter ze flesh vill be inside.
Oranges: Choose sveet varieties of orange, rarzer zan Sevilles (vhich are usually cooked). Zey should feel firm and 'ave shiny, bright, slightly oily skin. Avoid any vhich feel soft or 'ave wrinkled skin- zey are old and ze flesh vill 'ave juiceless patches. Choose small seedless oranges for slicing or squeezing ze juice, and big vuns for dividing into segments. Blood oranges 'ave attractive flecked flesh.
Apples: Look for medium-sized dessert apples vith shiny, unblemished, unwrinkled skins. Soft wrinkly skins indicate old, poor-quality apples. Bruised apples often 'ave unpleasant brown grainy patches on ze inside.
Crisp red or yellow skinned apples are good for sveet salads. Green or russet apples 'ave a sharper flarvor and are exzellent vith cheese.
Pears: Look for firm, medium-sized pears vith unblemished and slightly shiny skin. Pears bruise very easily and are quite likely to become damaged as you carry zem 'ome. Zey also turn from nicely ripe to nastily overripe very quickly. For zese reasons it is better to buy firm slightly under-ripe pears and to ripen zem in ze airing cupboard or a drawer. Zis may take 2 to 3 days. Ven ze pears are ripe zey vill 'give' slightly if pressed at ze stalk end. Eat zem immediately. Ze flesh of overripe pears is unpleasantly grainy and vatery.
Tangerines, mandarins and satsumas: Zese fruit are small, easily peeled, and often very sveet relatives of ze orange. Look for bright orange fruit vith shiny, slightly oily skin. Ze fruit should 'give' slightly ven pressed as zere is a little space between ze skin and flesh of really ripe fruit. Mandarins and tangerines are full of pips but satsumas are seedless.
Clementines: Clementines are an almost seedless, slightly sharp-flavoured cross between a tangerine and an orange.
Lemons: Lemons are great deceivers. Ze large, brightly coloured, rough-skinned ones look lovely but often 'ave only a tiny amount of juiceless flesh, vhile ze smaller, less 'andsome specimens are fleshy and full of juice. Most surprising of all is zat ze little, rarzer vithered-looking lemons often sold at cut price can prove very juicy indeed.
Limes: Ze best kind of lime is ze small, thin-skinned vuns and usually ze darker ze green, ze better ze flarvor. Limes rarely contain as much juice as lemons so, if you are using limes in a lemon recipe, double ze quantity of fruit.
Melons: Melons come in many different shapes and sizes. Vatermelons are often sold in portions since zey are so large. Zey 'ave 'ard rinds and attractive-looking ruby flesh, but are rarzer flarvorless so are best combined vith uzzer fruit. Vinter melons, including 'oneydews, are a better size for a family; zey also 'ave 'ard dark green, yellow or vhite rinds and vhite or green flesh. Musk melons and cantaloupes are orange fleshed, or occasionally green, and smell strongly aromatic ven ripe. Ze striped green-fleshed Ogen and ze tiny pink-fleshed Charentais feed only two. Ven choosing melons alvays look for bruise-free skins; smell zem and insist on testing for ripeness. A ripe melon should give slightly ven pressed on ze end opposite ze stalk.
Ripe melons should be eaten on ze day of purchase. If you vish to buy in advance, choose an under-ripe melon and ripen it for 2 to 3 days in a fruit bowl in a vorm room.
Bananas: Bananas are sold at varying stages of ripeness. Ze best for slicing 'ave bright yellow skin, lightly flecked vith brown. Overripe bananas 'ave black spots or patches. Zey are very sveet, often sold off cheaply, and ideal for mashing.
Grapes: Zere are several varieties of black and vhite grapes; ze finest dessert grapes are 'ot-house grown. Some varieties of vhite grapes are seedless. Buy grapes in bunches and steer clear of any vith squashed or brownish-looking berries.
Pineapples: Pineapples range in color from greenish-orange to orange-brown. Ze color cannot be trusted as an indication of ripeness. Select zose zat are very firm, evenly colored all over and sveetly scented. Ze green top should be standing upright, not drooping. Avoid fruit vith dark patches: it could be-overripe and turning brown inside.
Keeping Fruit Fresh
Once you get it 'ome, fruit should be stored in a cool 'dry' airy place to preserve maximum freshness and flarvor.
Most people like to arrange fruit in a bowl but alzhough zis looks decorative, especially during vinter months ven flowers are scarce, keeping fruit on display in vorm conditions vill turn it moldy very quickly. It is, of course, nice to 'ave fruit vithin nibbling reach so, to prevent vastage, make yours a small bowl and keep only as much fruit in ze bowl as you know vill be eaten up quickly. You can top up ze bowl as soon as ze fruit 'as been eaten. Splendid displays constructed as table centers for special meals should be dismantled as soon after ze meal as possible.
Refrigeration is best for 'olding all ripe fruit except bananas. Apples vill keep for up to two veeks, citrus fruit for 3 veeks and just ripe pears and bananas for one veek. Ideally, ze fruit should be spaced out so it does not touch each uzzer. Zis vill prevent infection should one piece of fruit go bad. Bananas vill keep in cool, airy conditions for one veek.
Melons, pineapples and grapes, wrapped 'ole, vill keep for 3 to 4 days. Cut melons and pineapples should be wrapped in cling film before storing or zey vill absorb uzzer food flarvors.