Tips for Buying Fruit at the Farmers' Market 🍉🍓🍒🍑🍇🍈 ... Plus How to Store It
Summer fruit can be dizzyingly abundant and great, but also a bit overwhelming. Should you buy it ripe and ready for right now, or slightly not-yet, so you can enjoy it on Thursday? And what to look for, so you're not bummed in any direction when you get it home? Here's a guide.
- •Strawberries🍓Choose firm and evenly pigmented berries w no white or green areas, no soft or shiny spots. Okay if misshapen or bumpy. Store at room temp if not too sweltering in your kitchen (ok to refrigerate if otherwise). Wipe clean w damp paper towel just before eating. Don't wash or submerge; they will absorb the H2O and become dilute.
- •Blackberries / RaspberriesLook over carefully (shake the container a little) to be sure there's no mold or softness. You want them to have deep and even color and an overall matte, dry surface. I like to store them unwashed in a single layer in a shallow paper towel-lined dish in the refrigerator.
- •BlueberriesIdeally they will be sold loose and in bulk, so you can respectfully comb through and carefully select. They should be very firm - absolutely no give when gently squeezed. They should also have a whitish pallor. Okay to wash right away if you dry them completely (salad spinner lined w paper towels). Store in refrigerator in a paper towel-lined dish, shaking once or twice a day (if you haven't already eaten them) to let some air in. Dryness is key.
- •Cherries 🍒As with blueberries, sort through and be picky. Don't worry about annoying the person in line behind you. Make sure each cherry is very firm and smooth. No spots or lesions. Okay (and actually kind of fun) if co-joined (cherry duplex!). Refrigerate w some ventilation. And enjoy w complete focus; they are so precious and ephemeral.
- •Peaches / Nectarines🍑🍑🍑First off, look for smooth surface - no dents or soft spots. Squeeze gently; there should be a little give. There should also be a definite aroma. This is an eyes-closed situation. Careful not to buy them too ripe unless you're going to eat them today. They will continue to ripen in your kitchen (not so much in your fridge) - quickly, but not always beautifully. Refrigerate once ripe. If they go too far, smoothie. Or pie.
- •Grapes🍇🍇Look everywhere. Mold can hide out around the stems or at the bottom of the bunch. You want firm and unshiny. It's lovely to leave them out decoratively on your table, if not too hot. Or refrigerate in a bowl, allowing some air.
- •Plums / ApricotsFirm but w slight give. Compelling color. As w peaches and nectarines, will continue to ripen on your counter, but will do so from the inside, so ripeness won't be visible until it's too far along. So continue to check in, squeeze, smell. Or just eat them already.
- •Cantaloupe 🍈 Honeydew 🍈 other muskmelonsLook for warm, golden hues on the skin. Slight give at the poles (but firm elsewhere). Telltale aroma (blind sniff test). If you hear the swishing of seeds when you shake it, it's very ready. Melons will not ripen after they are picked, but will continue to soften (polite way of saying they'll slowly rot). Room temp or chilled both fine.
- •🍉Watermelon🍉More of a gamble - hardest to discern. Try the thump test: knock on it like a door, close to your ear. It's good to go (usually) if you hear a dull thud, not a higher, resonating pitch. Technically it can be stored at room temp, but of course you want it ice cold. So make room in the fridge.
- •FigsIf you're lucky enough to live in fig tree territory, count that blessing. Figs should be perfectly soft; the rest is luck. They will not ripen once harvested, so refrigerate.
- •A note of fun economy:Misshapen fruit "seconds" can be delicious (if ripe as described above) - and are also a bargain. Farmers will be grateful if you wish to take these off their hands, and will usually sell them at a discount. So consider the less attractive specimens and enjoy - and save $.