In the age of the greenhouse- and hydroponically grown fruit and vegetables, flavour seems to be losing out to demand and what looks good. Get to know your local greengrocer. A greengrocer can tell you what's in season and what's good value.
Apples: Hardness is a good indication of crispness. Give the fruit a good flick with your fingers or press your thumb into it - a good solid sound and cracking of the skin into the flesh lets you know just how crisp it is. Apples bought in summer have less flavour, as they've been in cold storage for months (March to October is apple season). Store fruit in your fridge's crisper.
Apricots: Avoid fruit with soft, shrivelled pieces and green tinges. You want fruit that yields to gentle pressure, with velvety skin and a sweet aroma. Colour doesn't indicate ripeness or flavour (a pale apricot might still be rich and sweet).
Avocados: Avocado is a fruit! It ripens from the bottom upwards, so feel around the stem at the top for softness if you want one that's ready to eat. Otherwise, ripen at room temperature at home (place in a brown paper bag with a banana for fast ripening).
Bananas: Avoid buying bananas that are bruised and split. Green fruit is okay as bananas ripen off the plant. To speed up the ripening, just put them in a brown paper bag with a ripe banana or apple (storing bananas in the fridge makes thes skin turn black but stops them ripening).
Berries: Berries should be firm, bright and richly coloured with no sign of damage or bruising. Strawberries should have a lovely sweet scent and be free of whiteness – those with no fragrance will be bland. Berries don't store well, so try to eat them as soon as possible.
Cherries: Choose large, firm cherries with a rich red colour. Use as soon as possible
Grapes: Look for new, fresh stalks – dead stalks mean overripe grapes. Give the bunch a good shake – if too many grapes fall off, they're too mature. White grapes tinged yellow are sweeter, but this depends on personal taste.
Lemons: Choose lemons that are heavy for their size and fragrant. Avoid any with soft spots. Green lemons will not ripen off the tree.
Limes: Limes should be firm, thin-skinned and heavy for their size. Yellow skin means the lime is ripe and juicy and are preferable to small dark limes.
Mandarins: The skin should be glossy with a strong orange colour, and, like its citrus cousins, be firm and heavy.
Mangoes: The stronger and sweeter the aroma the better! Watch out for too many black spots. Green mangoes will ripen at room temperature in two to five days. Once ripe, eat as soon as possible.
Nectarines: Smaller than a peach, a nectarine should be smooth, bright, shiny and unblemished. The flesh near the stem should yield slightly when ripe. Will ripen at room temperature out of direct sunlight.
Oranges: Pick them up in the palm of your hand. They should be firm and heavy. Brown to black blemishes on the skin (followed by the fruit shrivelling) indicate deterioration.
Passionfruit: Wrinkly fruit is good! It indicates ripeness (smooth and shiny is unripe) and sweetness. Make sure the fruit is heavy and full.
Pawpaw and papaya: When ripe, it will yield at the stem end a little more than a ripe avocado. Avoid fruit with too many black spots and bruising. Eat as soon as ripe.
Peaches: When ripe, the flesh should be firm but yield to gentle pressure. You're after a rich yellow colour at the stem end and a distinct peachy aroma – give them a good sniff!. Those that are bruised or green (underripe) should be avoided.
Pears: Yellowing at the base indicates ripeness, softness and sweetness. When ready to eat, pears should yield to medium pressure around the stem.
Pineapples: The tip is to pull out the top leaves – the easier they pull, the riper the pineapple. Pineapples also lose their green colour when ripe.
Plums: Plums should be firm, bright and show no sign of wrinkling.
Rockmelon: Use your nose! Smell is the best indicator of flavour and ripeness. Also, shake the fruit - if it rattles it's mushy inside. Soft and sunken spots are a sign of spoiling.
Tomatoes: Yes! They're a fruit! And they don't belong in the fridge. Let them ripen at room temperature. Buy those with firm flesh and a uniform colour with no blemishes, wrinkles or cracks. Be sure they're heavy in the hand – light ones will have a poor texture and taste.
Watermelon: Pick up the fruit in your hands and make sure it's a good weight. Give it a bit of a thump too – a slightly hollow sound is what you're listening for. A yellowish underside is also a good sign of ripeness.
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