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How To Select Produce

  1. Oct 3, 2009 #1

    lisab

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    This thread describes the criteria a buyer should use when buying fruits and veggies.

    I'll start...

    Potatoes: waxy or starchy, there should be no green under the skin - none.

    Avocados: slightly squishy. The really bumpy rinds seem to give the best taste (just my observation).

    Carrots: very firm - bend them and they should feel stiff. Best without tops, which are pretty but provide an escape route for moisture.

    Cantaloupes: firm. Some places I read talk about color but I go by smell, I think it's a better predictor.

    Onions - should be firm, especially at the root end.

    I'm sure PFers can come up with lots of produce tips!
     
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  3. Oct 3, 2009 #2

    turbo

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    If you are buying from a grower that lets you sample:

    Asparagus should break cleanly where the tougher, older flesh and the tender shaft differentiate. If the asparagus bends, but does not snap (or does not snap cleanly) don't buy it.

    Carrots and green beans should be very crisp and must snap cleanly when bent. If they bend much before snapping, walk away.

    Pea pods should be firm and squeaky. No squeak, no buy.

    Garlic bulbs should be very firm. If not, walk away.

    Winter squash must be very hard and sound like wood when rapped. If not, walk away. Hubbards, especially. A good hubbard should be denser and tougher than even a buttercup, and they are hard and resiliant.

    Lettuce should also be firm and squeaky when you rub the leaves. If not, it's too old.

    Peppers should have a nice glossy skin and be firm to the touch. If they don't feel firm or the skins "give" a little when you rub them, they are too old.

    That's a few to start with....
     
  4. Oct 3, 2009 #3

    Evo

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    This is great lisab! So many people do not know how to select fresh produce.

    eggplants - should be firm, glossy, no brown or soft spots

    oranges - don't go by color, many oranges are colored with dyes, the list I have says to check the navel, but that only works if it is a navel orange. Sorry.
     
  5. Oct 3, 2009 #4

    Math Is Hard

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    Don't the grocers get peeved when you abuse their fruits and veggies?
     
  6. Oct 3, 2009 #5

    turbo

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    There you go screwing up a perfectly good thread! There is no such thing as a "good" eggplant. If you want to foist that food-substitute on an unwitting public you should include disclaimers like "you can substitute cardboard beer-coasters for sliced eggplant in this this eggplant Parmesan recipe" if you can't get eggplant or are too smart not to pay actual money for it.
     
  7. Oct 3, 2009 #6

    turbo

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    At farmers' markets, it is expected and encouraged by the honest folks.
     
  8. Oct 3, 2009 #7

    Evo

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    But then there is the person that knows how to feel a vegetable without harming it, and the nimnals that cause the damage that ruins them.

    It reminds me of a grocery store I went to in Houston where all of the produce was behind the counter and was staffed by knowledgeable produce people. Customers were not allowed to touch the produce and harm it or get their dirty hands all over it. You told the expert what you wanted, they picked it up, showed it to you, and if you didn't know what to look for, they explained why they selected them. It always turned out to be excellent choices. But it was also expensive.
     
  9. Oct 3, 2009 #8

    lisab

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    Wow, I've never been to such a place, but if the employees are knowledgeable I bet it could be great.

    Apples - oh, I go by smell. But does anyone know how to tell if an apple is mealy? Firmness won't always indicate it (unless it's far gone of course).
     
  10. Oct 3, 2009 #9

    turbo

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    We sure don't have that here. The supermarkets offer stuff that has been trucked up from Mexico, FL, CA, etc and you get pick your poison.
     
  11. Oct 3, 2009 #10

    turbo

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    Buy apples VERY early. If they are not sweet enough for you, boil them down to make applesauce or process them with a peeler/slicer and freeze them. Apples in a freezer are like gold. You can do stuff with them all winter.
     
  12. Oct 3, 2009 #11

    Evo

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    It wasn't in *my* neighborhood. This was a store in a very posh, out of my income neighborhood that I was in because I was visiting clients. But, I have to say, it made sense, they surely knew more than I did. I was actually in line, I found out, with the cooks and servants employed by these uber wealthy people. :tongue2:

    I guess I should be happy I wasn't gunned down in the parking lot for invading their space.

    I went back many times, the produce was so good. I think it was called Jason's. I have no idea if it is still there.
     
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2009
  13. Oct 3, 2009 #12
    I like to go to places like the "Strip District" in Pittsburgh. It's (basically) a wholesale area near downtown where rail-cars deliver produce and it's transported to trucks for regional delivery. The vendors start around 4:00 AM and trade until about Noon.

    In addition to fresh vegetables and fruit, the various merchants offer a wide variety of seafood, meats, cheeses, pastas, breads, and nuts. For the most part, the produce and fruit are delivered early and delivered to the stores when ripe.

    Accordingly, you need an eye for selecting products on the basis of what they would look/feel like tomorrow or the next day. As an example, green bananas would be shipped to a store and yellow ones might be sold in the Strip.

    Most of the items I wanted to discuss have already been posted. But a good rule of thumb is if it's soft, it might be bruised. If it's waxy it's probably good, and if you hold it with 2 hands and shake it near your ear - people will think you know what you're doing and may ask advice.:biggrin:
     
  14. Oct 4, 2009 #13

    Moonbear

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    I wish I knew of a place like that! I HATE going to a grocery store and finding every single ear of corn has been half shucked and left behind, all because nitwits can't tell just by feeling the corn if it's full (and then think that because the very tippy top of it is not fully developed, that it's a bad ear). All they accomplish is ruining perfectly good corn by removing the husk and letting it dry out.

    Of course, one grocery store I won't go back to. I was selecting tomatoes one day there, and managed to pick up a defective bag. They fell right out the bottom. So, I left them on the floor where they landed so someone could clean them up since I deemed them now bruised and useless, got a new bag, and started looking for another tomato. One of the employees walked up while I was still in the produce section, picked up the damaged tomatoes from the floor, and put them right back in the bin for sale instead of throwing them out! When I saw that, I put down what I was selecting and walked away.
     
  15. Oct 4, 2009 #14

    Monique

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    Try making "baingan ka bharta", seasoned roast eggplant, it's delicious :smile:

    How about passion fruit? In the stores they are always perfectly round, but I've heard that the wrinklier the better?
     
  16. Oct 4, 2009 #15
    Twinkies: slightly spongy and entirely yellow except for the white cream stuff oozing out of the bottom

    Ramen: always good, no matter what
     
  17. Oct 4, 2009 #16
    One that I learned from my dad recently -

    Okra: Has to be soft to the touch when you squeeze it. If it's even the slightest bit hard, toss it.

    This is a better method of picking them than clipping off the ends.
     
  18. Oct 4, 2009 #17

    Pengwuino

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    Now we're getting this thread somewhere.

    Chef Boyardee: The larger the better, make sure the can isn't open.

    Snickers: Make sure the bar hasn't been broken on the inside of the packaging
     
  19. Oct 4, 2009 #18
    Bananas - Should have some bit of greenness to them when buying if you expect them to last the entire week.

    Coffee - So long as its not decaf :yuck:
     
  20. Oct 4, 2009 #19

    turbo

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    Only buy Kraft Macaroni and Cheese is less than 2 years expired.
     
  21. Oct 4, 2009 #20

    D H

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    1. Thump test. Put the cantelope by your ear and thump it with the side of your thumb. A good cantelope will sound hollowish rather than solid or mushy. Solid: Thump your head instead of the melon. If you can't tell the difference, the melon is underripe. Mushy sounds like a thump on your abdomen. If it sounds like a thump on your chest, its just about right.

    2. Stem test. Press at the spot on the melon where the stem used to be. The melon is overripe if the stem spot is mushy, overripe if it is very firm, just right if it is just a bit spongy.

    3. Sight test. Look for sunken in areas. A good melon should be nice and round. A soft concavity is a sign of a bad spot.

    In Southeast Texas, we have to watch out for black spots. Everything molds here! Sometimes mold is patently obvious, other times it is sneaky and is hiding under the paper. Mold loves the root end.

    Other things that mold just loves: raspberries, strawberries, grapes, garlic, zucchini, ...


    Peaches: God knows. The baseball substitutes that grocers here parade as peaches are cling peaches picked green. The rot from the inside out before they turn ripe. I yearn for a soft, sweet, juicy freestone peach.
     
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