Picking the Right Produce

August 13, 2008 5:18:45 PM PDT
With the price of food going up and up, everyone is looking for ways to save money and stretch their food dollars. Here's something you may not have thought of the cost of the food you end up throwing out.Shoppers at "The Market" in northwest Fresno are tempted by mountains of melons, piles of peaches, and tantalizing tomatoes. Produce Manager Darryl Williamson says, for the absolute freshest ... Buy local and in season.

Darryl Williamson: "We get the product that's actually been on the tree or vine longer, so it's really got its full ripeness. You got beautiful cantaloupes and other varieties of melons that are coming in season right now. All your summer fruits, your stone fruit, peaches, nectarines, and plums."

Don't just use your eyes when you're searching for great fruits and veggies, use your other senses, like touch and also use your nose. For example, when you're hunting for melons and berries, they should smell sweet.

Consumer reports says picking produce can be tricky.

Lisa Lee Freeman, Consumer Reports: "It's happened to everybody. You bite into a piece of fruit. It looks so good, but then it tastes so bad. What a disappointment. And what a waste of money. Americans throw out about half a pound of produce every single day."

Here are some tips to make sure you don't bring home any duds. Choose tomatoes with a vibrant color that are a little soft to the touch. As for beans, thin ones are better. And ones that bend like this are old. You can use the same bending test with celery, asparagus, and zucchini, too. Look for broccoli that's dark green with tight buds. If you can separate the buds, or it's yellow, it's getting old.

Lisa Lee Freeman: "With watermelons, you want to look for a nice sheen to its skin. You also want to look for a yellow patch on the bottom. That means it's ripe but not rotten."

Pick plums with even color and no brown spots. And look for ones that are slightly soft to the touch. The same's true for peaches and nectarines. And choose ones with a creamy gold background color.

When in doubt ... Ask for a taste test

Darryl Williamson: "Our staff is more than willing to cut the fruit, let you taste it, because that's what really sells the fruit or the product."

Also, no matter how fabulous the produce, resist the urge to buy more than you'll eat within a few days, so you don't end up wasting money by throwing out spoiled fruits and vegetables.

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