Posted Aug 12, 2010
HOW TO … PICK YOUR PRODUCE
The average American household throws away a quarter of fresh fruits and vegetables purchased, often due to spoilage, according to a federal study. Here’s how to buy smarter:
Check for blemishes. Avoid all produce with mold or mushy spots. Other no-no’s: mushrooms with slimy coating, lettuce with brown edges, pineapples with dark spots on the base, tomatoes with cracks and bell peppers with wrinkled skin.
Eyeball the color. As a general rule, the stems of plants should be green and the fruit should be the color you expect. Strawberries should be a deep red all the way down to the stem, for example, while cut watermelon should be pink, not pale.
Test the smell … Not all fruit smells sweet, but a sour odor typically means it has started to go bad.
… and weight. If a piece of fruit such as a peach, mango or plum feels heavy for its size, you’re likely making a good – and juicy – choice.
Be wary of bulk purchases. Take home only as much as you’ll realistically use in a few days to a week (ask a produce manager how long an item will keep). Large bags and tubs also are more likely to have spoiled items hidden inside.
Pluck out bad pieces. Immediately inspect fruit at home and toss rotten items that could quickly spoil a whole batch.
Consider how you’ll use leftovers. Buy vegetables that you can steam and throw into soups and casseroles once they’ve begun to spoil. You also can turn older fruit into jam and rotten bananas into bread.