Does anyone else spend wayyyy too much time trying to pick the best produce at the grocery store?! And it’s THE WORST when you take a bite of what looks like a juicy watermelon and it has no flavor…or you cut into an avocado to find it’s either brown and gross or underripe and impossible to smash for your avo toast.
You don’t have to rely on luck to pick the best and most delicious produce! With a few tips, you can pick the best fruits and veggies every single time you shop. Checking for a few small things can seriously up your produce game and even make your recipes taste better. Fresh, quality produce gives you the best nutrition too!
I put together an all-inclusive guide for picking and storing produce, and for knowing when it’s probably time to toss it.
Asparagus: This is a tough one! You want the ones that are bright and firm. No flimsy asparagus stalks. Try to buy a bunch that are around the same size so they cook evenly. Store asparagus in a cup or jar with a couple inches of water. When you’re ready to cook, just break or cut off the purple woody ends. Once they get floppy and limp, they’re no good.
Avocado: Ahhh you know it’s a good day when you slice open a PERFECT avocado. The trick is figuring out how to make this happen alllll the time! So here’s what you do. Find the ones that are slightly soft unless you want to ripen them at home. Avoid the ones that are like rocks! You can also pull back the little circle where the stem was to make sure the inside is green and not brown.
*If you want to keep an avocado you’ve already sliced into, just soak it cut side down in some cold water or squeeze some lemon/lime juice on it! No icky brown avocado the next day! YAY.
Beets: Look at the stem and root. If they look pretty fresh and the actual beet is firm, it’s probably good to go. Skip the ones that have wilted leaves or hairy roots. Once you wash them, you can store beets in the fridge for up to a couple weeks! Don’t forget you can use the greens on beets too!
Eggplant: A perfectly ripe eggplant will be shiny and will give a little when you press into it. But it won’t be so soft that the area you touch stays indented! Some eggplants in grocery stores are HUGE, but picking the smaller one will give you less seeds and they usually taste better.
Peppers: Pick the firm, shiny and heavy ones! Definitely go for peppers when they’re in season. If you cut into the pepper and find black seeds, don’t worry! It’s still safe to eat. Just avoid the ones that have full-on fuzzy mold on/in them.
Potatoes: You want any kind of potato you get to be firm and smooth. Avoid buying any potatoes with bruises or sprouts. If you cut into the potato and find a brown spot, just cut around it and throw that part away.
Have you heard that sprouted potatoes are poisonous?! I’m sure plenty of people just cut away the sprouts and cook them and they’re fine, but this is a real thing! The sprouts produce a toxic compound called glycoalkaloids. Eating too much of this can make you pretty sick. Green spots on a sprouted potato is another indicator that glycoalkaloids are starting to develop. It’s probably best to avoid eating potatoes with sprouts.
Spaghetti Squash: Grab a nice, round firm squash free of any soft spots or cracks. You can store a good spaghetti squash in a cool, dry space for up to a month! However, once it starts to go bad, the seeds inside might actually sprout. If you see sprouts, it might be safe to eat, but it probably won’t taste great.
Summer Squash: Like zucchini and yellow squash! You want these to be firm, shiny, and just pretty (meaning, no blemishes). Once these get wrinkly and soft, toss ’em.
Tomatoes: Find some firm, shiny tomatoes with good color and then smell them! Ripe tomatoes will smell earthy and fragrant. Don’t get any with wrinkled skin, and DON’T store tomatoes in the fridge!
Apples: In most places, apples are in season in the fall. But you can store them in the fridge for several weeks! The best-tasting apples will be heavy and firm, and naturally shiny. Also look for an even, deep color (little to no green or yellow on a red apple). It also helps to learn a little about different types of apples to pick the best one for your taste or whatever recipe you’re making!
Apricots: You want these to be a little soft but definitely not mushy. They should smell slightly sweet too.
Blueberries: Blueberries can be realllllly hit or miss. Definitely buy frozen when they’re not in season to save money and avoid flavorless berries. When they’re in season for the summer, pick the firm, dry ones with a nice deep blue color. Grab a container that doesn’t have any smashed or moldy ones in it.
Cantaloupe: Skip the green ones and go for a nice cream or slightly yellow color. Bruises are a no-go too. Ripe cantaloupe will smell a little sweet.
Cherries: Shiny, deep-colored cherries with their stem still intact are best and last the longest. Cherries grow until they’re fully ripe, which means the more plump the better :) Sweet cherries are best for snacking, while tart cherries are best in baked goods or jams/jellies.
Grapefruit: Look for a heavy grapefruit that is slightly soft. The skin should be smooth and on the thin side.
Kiwi: Look for the happy medium between rock hard and mushy for the best kiwi. And yes, you can eat the skin!
Mango: You don’t really have to pay attention to color for mangoes! A good one will be slightly soft and fragrant.
Peaches: Use your hands and nose to pick a good peach. The perfect peach will be slightly soft (not mushy!) and smell sweet. You also want them to have nice, deep color with no green left on the skin.
Pears: Perfectly ripe pears will be juuuuust starting to get soft at the base of the stem. Avoid pears that have bruises. A lot of pears at the store won’t be ripe quite yet, but you can ripen them at room temp or in a paper bag.
Pineapple: If it feels heavy, looks fresh, and smells sweet, grab it. You can usually smell a pineapple’s sweetness right off the bat! If it is more yellow, it will riper.
Strawberries: These seem pretty self-explanatory since it’s pretty easy to find the ones that aren’t mushy or moldy. But the key to the juiciest, sweetest strawberries is to pick the beautiful red, small berries that are in season. Those giant ones at the grocery store pretty much always lack flavor.
Watermelon: A ripe watermelon will have a nice yellow spot on one side that shows where it sat long enough to get nice and sweet. Pick one that is heavy for its size and sounds hollow when you tap it. This means there’s a lot of juiciness waiting in there for you!
Any fruits or vegetables I missed? What are your fun ways to test when things are ripe?!