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Saturday, June 12, 2010

Selecting Fruits and Vegetables

With modern farming, processing and delivery, many stores are able to put produce out for sale within a day or two after it is picked. Ask your store's produce manager for delivery days so you can get to your favorite fruits and veggies before quality declines.

Vegetables that are characteristic color, shape and size generally have the best taste and texture. However, good produce doesn't have to be picture perfect. Some of the best products don't look very good. Most bananas, for example, have a fuller flavor if they are speckled.

Contrary to some consumer practices, thumping or shaking a melon does not indicate ripeness. Instead, authorities recommend feeling a product. In general, produce that's too soft is too ripe; if it's too hard, it's not ripe enough. Try the sniff test, too. With certain fruits, like peaches and melons, a strong scent means they're ripening nicely.

Fruits and vegetables grown by local farmers may be fresher and tastier than those shipped long distances from larger farms. Once again, ask your grocery store's produce manager if any is in stock.

Many communities sponsor weekly farmers' markets to provide a central, in-town site for small farms to sell their produce directly to consumers. Contact your local Extension office for information about local markets.

Take a weekend drive into the country to look for roadside stands where farm families sell their produce, usually picked just hours before you buy it. Or visit a farm that allows you to pick your own strawberries, blueberries, peaches and apples. Your local county Extension agent can direct you to such places.

Probably one of the most important tips for finding great-tasting produce is to buy in season, when possible. Here's a guide to when certain fruits and vegetables are at their peak.

Summer: apricots, blueberries, cherries, eggplant, fresh herbs, green beans, hot peppers, melon, okra, peaches, plums, sweet corn, sweet peppers, tomatoes, zucchini.

Fall: apples, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, collards, grapes, kale, pears, persimmons, pumpkins, winter squash, yams.

Winter: beets, cabbage, carrots, citrus fruits, daikon radishes, onions, rutabagas, turnips, winter squash.

Spring: asparagus, blackberries, green onions, leeks, lettuces, new potatoes, peas, red radishes, rhubarb, spinach, strawberries, watercress.

shared on Homemaking Monday at 11th Heaven' Homemaking Haven

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