Quick Recipes and Easy

Choosing Fresh Fruit or Who Put the Worm in My Apple

Fresh fruit! Everybody likes fruit. Imagine biting into a crisp red apple, tantalizing your taste buds. How about tossing sweet , seedless grapes into your mouth, anticipating that satisfying pop!! with each bite. Then there is the ultimate fruit treat! Ice-cold watermelon, juice dripping down your chin and all over your hands. Is there a better feeling? Absolutely not.

Your taste buds are ready for that first bite of succulence. Yum! Absolutely tasty! But what is this…? Your smile is turning into a frown. That gorgeous apple is mushy!! You dig further into your refrigerator for some grapes. What can go incorrect here? Pucker, pucker. Sour, you say? And where did these seeds come from? You go onto that all-time favorite. The only thing incorrect with watermelon is that once you place it into your refrigerator to chill, suddenly there is no room for anything else, with the possible exception of a tin of sardines. You excavate the refrigerator, digging for that melon with the juice of ambrosia. Cutting yourself a hunk, you take that first huge bite, waiting for bliss. Hmm! You had better take a second bite. Oh, no! Guess what? You just bought 14 pounds of water and rind.

It’s time for revenge! With the following list, you will be ready and able to properly choose FRESH fruit to titillate your tongue

Let’s take a look at many of the most frequently eaten raw fruits. Included are bananas, apples, watermelons, oranges, cantaloupes, grapes, grapefruit, strawberries, peaches, pears, nectarines, honey dew melons, plums, avocado, lemons, pineapples, tangerines, sweet cherries, kiwifruit, and limes. It is honestly simple to judge the quality of most fruits by just looking at their external appearance.

Apples For snacking, try Red Tasty, McIntosh, Granny Smith, Empire, and Golden Tasty. Tart varieties such as Gravenstein, Grimes Golden, Jonathan, and Newton make excellent pies and applesauce. But, for baking, use the firmer-fleshed varieties such as Rome Beauty and Winesap.

When selecting apples, go for crisp, firm, and well-colored. Flavor depends on the stage of maturity at the time the fruit is picked. Make sure to select mature apples to insure excellent flavor, texture, and storing ability.

Avoid overripe apples (Fruit that yields to slight pressure on the skin, and soft, mealy flesh) and apples hurt by freeze (Internal breakdown and bruising). Taste will not be seriously affected by scald (irregularly shaped tan or brown areas).

Apricots Most fresh apricots are available in June and July. Apricots should do their maturing while on the tree and be firm to the touch when picked. Plump, golden orange, and juicy looking fruit should yield to gentle pressure. Avoid mushy fruit or hard, greenish yellow apricots.

Groves of Avocado trees in California and Florida make the fruit available all year. Two general types, with a number of varieties within these types, vary greatly in shape, size, and color. Most of them are pear-shaped. Some of the fruits have a rough or leathery textured skin while others are smooth. Most avocados are some shade of green but certain varieties turn maroon, brown, or purplish-black during the ripening process.

Avocados are ready to eat when slightly soft. It takes from 3 to 5 days at room temperature for “grocery store hard” avocados to ripen. Refrigeration slows ripening.

For immediate consumption, pick slightly soft avocados which yield to gentle pressure but for use later in the week, select fruits that are still firm to the touch.

Avoid avocados with dark sunken spots or cracked or broken surfaces. Avocado Cooking Tip: To avoid the browning of avocado flesh when it is exposed to the air, immediately place the exposed flesh in lemon juice until ready to use.

Bananas are best after harvesting. Available year-round and imported from Central and South America, bananas get injured in temperatures below 55º and should never be kept refrigerated. Ideally, bananas should be kept in an area that is between 60º and 70º.

Look for firm bananas with a bright skin and no bruises. When the solid yellow color is specked with brown, the banana has reached its best eating stage. Avoid bananas with green tips, bruised fruit, discolored skin, or a grayish, aged appearance.

Fresh Blueberries are available from May through September. Look for dark blue berries with a silvery coating. Buy blueberries that are plump, firm, uniform in size, dry, and with no stems or leaves. Try to avoid soft, mushy blueberries.

Most sweet Cherries, brilliant as a dessert fruit, come from the Western states and are available from May through August. Sour or pie cherries are used in cooked desserts and have a softer flesh, lighter red color, and a tart flavor.

Look for very dark color to indicate excellent flavor and maturity in sweet cherries. Bing, Black Tartarian, and Schmidt varieties should range in color from deep maroon or mahogany red to black for the richest flavor. Rainier cherries should be straw-colored. Look for bright, glossy, plump-looking surfaces and fresh-looking stems. Avoid cherries with soft, leaking flesh, an indication of decay.

Fresh Cranberries are available from September through January. Look for plump, firm berries with lustrous color. Avoid brown or dark, discolored berriesr.

Grapefruit are available all year, from Florida, Texas, California, and Arizona. Grapefruit are marketed as “seedless” (having few or no seeds) and “seeded.” The color of the flesh is another distinction of the various varieties. Grapefruit is picked “tree ripe” and ready to eat.

The best tasting grapefruit are firm and heavy for their size. Thin-skinned fruits tend to be juicier than the coarse-skinned ones. Avoid fruit with soft, tender peel that breaks easily with finger pressure.

Most table Grapes are grown principally in California and Nevada. Common varieties are Thompson Seedless (an early, green grape), Red Seedless (an early, red grape), and Tokay (early, bright red, seeded grapes).

American-type grapes have softer flesh and more juice than the European varieties. The blue-black Concord has outstanding flavor. Delaware and Catawba are also well loved varieties.

Look for well-colored, plump grapes firmly attached to the stem. Avoid soft or wrinkled grapes.

The Kiwifruit is honestly small. The pulp is bright green, slightly acid-tasting, and surrounded by many small, black, edible seeds, which in turn surround a pale heart. The exterior of the kiwifruit is light to medium brown and “furry” in texture. Most domestic kiwifruit is produced in California.

Look for kiwifruit that is plump and unwrinkled. It is fully ripe when it is yielding to the touch but not soft. Ripening can be speeded by leaving it for a few days at room temperature.

Special Note: Kiwifruit contains the enzyme actinidin which reacts chemically to break down proteins. Actinidin prevents gelatin from setting, so if you are plotting to serve kiwifruit in a gelatin dish, cook the fruit for a few minute’s before adding it to the gelatin.

Available year-round, most Lemons come from California and Arizona. Look for fruit with a rich yellow color, and honestly smooth-textured skin with a slight gloss. Lemons that are firm and heavy tend to be very juicy.

Limes come to market when they have matured. Like lemons, look for limes that have a glossy skin and heavy weight for their size.

Selecting Melons for quality and flavor can be hard.

Cantaloupe are generally available from May to September. There are 3 major signs of full maturity in a cantaloupe: The stem should be really gone, the veining should be thick, coarse, and corky, and the skin color between the veining should have changed from green to yellowish-buff, yellowish-gray, or pale yellow.
A cantaloupe might be mature, but not ripe. A ripe cantaloupe will yield slightly to light thumb pressure. It will have a yellowish cast to the rind and have an enticing cantaloupe aroma.

Many cantaloupes on show in the grocery are quite firm but most are not quite ready to eat. It is best to keep them at room temperature for 2 to 4 days to let them end ripening.

A Casaba melon is sweet, juicy, and Pumpkin-shaped. The rind is hard and the stem must be cut when harvesting. Casaba melons are grown in California and Arizona and are available from July to November. Look for fruit with a gold-yellow rind color and slight softening at the blossom end. Casabas are aroma free!

The Crenshaw melon, a large fruit, has a rather smooth rind with very shallow lengthwise furrowing. The tasty flesh is pale orange and juicy. Crenshaws come from California July to October, with peak crops in August and September.

The crenshaw has three signs of ripening: a deep golden yellow rind; a surface that yields slightly to moderate pressure, and a pleasant aroma.

The Honey Dew melon is highly prized as a dessert fruit. Large (4 to 8 pounds), the fruit is bluntly oval in shape and generally very smooth. Depending upon the stage of ripeness, the rind is firm and ranges in color from creamy white to creamy yellow. A soft, velvety texture indicates maturity (ready to be picked) while ripeness (ready to be eaten) is indicated by a slight softening at the blossom end, a faint pleasant fruit aroma, and a rind a yellowish-white to creamy color.

Closely resembling cantaloupes, Persian melons are rounder and are about the size of honey dews. The Persian melon’s flesh is thick, fine-textured, and orange in color. California supplies a honest number of these tasty melons in August and September.

Even though Watermelons can be found in groceries, to some degree, from early May to September, the peak harvest comes in June, July, and August. It is very hard to judge the quality of a watermelon without cutting it in half or quartering it.

Look for a watermelon with firm, juicy flesh that is a excellent red color. The flesh should be free of white streaks and should have dark brown or black seeds. Small white immature seeds are normal for “seedless” watermelon. Avoid melons with pale-colored flesh, white streaks, and whitish seeds.

If you are courageous enough to buy an uncut watermelon, there are a few appearance factors that might be helpful (though not really reliable). The melon surface should be relatively smooth; the rind should have a slight dullness; the ends of the watermelon should be filled out and rounded; and the “belly” of the watermelon should be a creamy color.

Nectarines, combining characteristics of both the peach and the plum, are available from June to September, from California. Look for plump, rich-colored fruit with a slight softening along its “seam”. Nectarines that are firm or moderately hard to the touch should ripen in 2 to 3 days at room temperature.

Oranges are supplied year-round. The Washington Navel and the Valencia, both with a rich orange skin color, are leading varieties from California and Arizona. The Navel orange has a thicker, more pebbled skin than the Valencia. It has the advantages of its skin being more easily removed by hand and that the segments come apart more easily. The Navel is best for eating as a whole fruit or in segments in salads. The Western Valencia, well suited for either juicing or for slicing in salads. The Florida Temple is somewhat like the California Navel in easiness of peeling and separating into segments, along with brilliant flavor.

Look for firm and heavy oranges with reasonably smooth, bright looking skin. Avoid light-weight oranges, which are likely to be dried out in its interior. These oranges tend to have very small juice.

There are many varieties of Peaches but it takes an expert to tell one variety from another. Peaches fall into two general types: freestone (flesh easily separates from the pit) and clingstone (flesh clings tightly to the pit). Freestones are generally consumed fresh or for freezing. Clingstones are used primarily for canning.

Look for peaches that are rather firm or becoming a bit soft. The skin color between the red areas should be yellow or creamy. Avoid fruit that has distinct green ground color or that is very soft.

California, Washington, and Oregon produce fantastic quantities of Pears. The Bartlett pear is the most well loved variety for canning and for eating fresh. Look for firm pears. Pears will probably ripen at room temperature but it is a excellent thought to pick pears that have already begun to soften to get excellent ripening.

Pineapples can be found at the grocery year around but are most plentiful from March to June. The come primarily from Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and Mexico. Many pineapples are already fully colored when seen at the grocery but if necessary, a mature green pineapple should normally turn yellow to orange within a few days at room temperature.

Look for pineapples with bright color, a pleasant pineapple aroma, and a very slight separation of the eyes or pips (the fruitlets patterned in a spiral on the fruit core). When mature, pineapples are generally dark green, firm, plump, and heavy for their size. When fully colored, pineapples should be golden yellow, orange -yellow, or reddish brown.

Plums and Prunes have very similar quality characteristics and buying tips. Only a few varieties of prunes are marketed. Prunes are purplish-black or bluish-black. The flesh is moderately firm and separates easily from the pit. Look for plums and prunes with excellent color and are honestly firm to slightly soft.

Blackberries, Raspberries, Dewberries, Loganberries, and Youngberries may differ from one another in shape or color but they closely share quality factors. Look for a bright, clean appearance and uniform excellent color. The berries should be plump and tender. Avoid leaky and moldy berries.

The best Strawberry harvest is in May and June but lasts until the fall. Look for strawberries with shiny red color, firm flesh, and the cap stem still attached. Small to medium berries have the best taste. Try to avoid berries with large uncolored areas or with large seedy areas.

Tangerines come primarily from Florida but California, Arizona, and Texas provide large crops. Available from late November to early March, tangerines peak in December and January.

Look for deep yellow or orange color with a bright luster. Tangerines will frequently not feel firm to the touch due to the typically loose nature of tangerine peel.

Terry Kaufman is Chief Editorial Writer for niftykitchen.com/ www.niftykitchen.com, niftyhomebar.com/ www.niftyhomebar.com, and niftygarden.com www.niftygarden.com.
©2006 Terry Kaufman. No reprints without permission.

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