TIPS ON PICKING THE BEST FALL PRODUCE 20 Oct 2014
It’s October and fall is in full effect. I love the crisp air, changing leaves, and tempting fall harvest at the farmers’ markets. If you’re like me, you can’t wait to grab your tote and moccasins and sip some cider (or a pumpkin spice latte) as you shop for the week's dinner.
Many vendors often have the same produce, so it can be difficult to know how to choose which are the best quality fruits and veggies. I grew up on a farm, so I'm privy to all sorts of tips and tricks. Here’s a cheat sheet for choosing the best produce this season.
Root veggies: Look for fresh, firm veggies with bright greens attached. For maximum flavor, smaller carrots, turnips, and parsnips are better than big ones.
Kale: Look for deep colored leaves that are springy and don’t show signs of wilting or discoloration. Also, the stem shouldn't be dry. Tip: The smaller the leaf, the milder the flavor.
Butternut squash: Look for one with matte skin that's heavy, solid and still has a stem. Stay away from ones with soft spots.
Broccoli: Broccoli seems like it should be easy to pick, but sometimes the stalks are starchy and flavorless. Select one that is dark green with stiff stalks and tight florets. Any signs of yellowing, a rubbery feel, or white stems means you should skip it.
Apples: Many apples look beautiful on the outside, but are mealy and flavorless once you take a bite. The trick? Keep an eye out for ones that are firm with shiny, bright skin.
Pears: Did you know that pears are best bought before they’re ripe? Because they’re perishable, select pears that are firm, have smooth skin, and are free of bruises. And don’t worry about variations in color – that’s normal (except dark spots). If you want to speed up the ripening process, place the pears in a paper bag at room temperature. Just make sure to check each day, so they don’t go past their prime.
Avocados: A ready-to-eat avocado is slightly soft and doesn’t have dents or dark bruises. My dad's tip: Gently press the top of the avocado where the stem was detached. If it gives in, it’s probably ripe (you don’t want it to feel squishy). If you purchase a firm avocado, it can ripen in a brown paper bag (avoid the refrigerator until it’s sliced and then keep the pit in it to slow the browning).
Image of Mars and his grandparents picking spinach on the last day of summer via Lauren