Go to any local farmers market in July and you’ll be greeted with some of summer’s most refreshing fruits: stands of luscious watermelons, crates overflowing with bright berries, and sunny rows of buttery mangoes.
Many of us naturally buy our favourite fruits based on how good they look----smooth skin, vibrant colour, no bruises, mold-free. This is especially true if we intend to eat them straight up. But then sometimes we get an unpleasant surprise back home when we discover the strawberries we just bought taste sour.
We’ve all prematurely bitten into an underripe fruit and ended up wasting it because it was either too crunchy, too acidic or just lacked the sweet, juicy flavour we’ve come to expect from beautifully fresh fruit.
Truth is, just because a fruit looks good enough to eat doesn’t mean it’s fully ripe.
Learning the signs of when fruits are at their peak before purchasing will help you reduce unnecessary waste, save money, and save yourself from disappointment.
Here’s how to tell when your favourite summer fruits are perfectly ripe (and what to do if you get stuck with ones that are overripe).
Look for plump strawberries that are bright red from top to bottom. Contrary to most fruits, strawberries don’t ripen after they’ve been picked, so what you see in the store is what you get. Berries that have a patch of green or yellow near the top is a tell-tale sign they won’t be as sweet as ripe strawberries.
Pineapples can be tricky to figure out. The tell-tale signs a pineapple is ready to eat is if it’s slightly firm with yellow skin, dark green leaves and a sweet smell. Pineapple will keep for about 5-7 days in the fridge, either stored whole or sliced in an airtight container.
It can be tricky to gauge the ripeness of a plum just by looking at it since it comes in a variety of colours—from red and yellow to purple and almost black.
So how do you know when the flavours have reached their peak?
Ripe, juicy plums feel heavy when placed in the palm of your hand and should have some give when you press your finger at the base opposite the stem. If it’s too soft, it’s probably overripe.
You know your cantaloupe is ripe when the rind is slightly yellow and it starts to give off that classically sweet cantaloupe aroma we love so much.
If it feels a little soft to the touch, has a few bruises and smells very strong or even alcoholic, the fruit is overripe and may be more difficult to eat fresh (but still perfect for your smoothies!)
Picked a cantaloupe that doesn’t smell like anything? Just leave it on the counter at room temperature for a few days. Once ripe, you can keep it in the fridge for up to 4 days.
It’s hard to tell what’s inside a watermelon when you bring it home. One of the easiest ways to figure out whether a watermelon is ripe is when you see a patch of yellow or white rind on its belly spot (the underside of the melon that wasn’t exposed to sunlight as it grew). It should also feel nice and heavy in your hands when you pick it up.
Just like blueberries and raspberries, cherries stop ripening once picked. So how can you tell which ones are the best? It’s simple: ripe cherries are plump and usually still have their stems attached.
While there are many cherry varieties, they all have signs that tell consumers when they’re ready to be eaten. Bing cherries turn a deep maroon colour, Early Richmond cherries turn bright red, and Rainier cherries turn yellow with a light red blush on one side.
It’s time to put your sniffer to the test again. Mangoes are at their peak flavour when they have a strong, tropical smell and are slightly soft when you give them a gentle squeeze, indicating juicy flesh inside. Don’t worry if the skin has a few bruises or brown specks---it’s still perfectly ripe on the inside. Store in an airtight container and keep in the fridge for up to one week.
Stuck with overripe mango?
Avocados are a fickle fruit. You can spend days nurturing one to near perfect ripeness only to slice it open and discover it’s not that beautiful creamy yellow-green you’re expecting, but rather a mushy brown mess.
Here’s an easy trick we learned to help us pick Insta-worthy avocados, every time: check under the stem.
This part of the avocado gives you a sneak peak on what it looks like on the inside. If you find green underneath the stem, it’s ready to eat. But if you notice brown underneath, then the avocado is overripe (but still good for recipes!).
Other surefire signs of ripeness are when they feel lightly soft to the touch and have a darker colour. Though this depends on the variety of avocado.
*Simply scrape off the very dark areas before adding to recipes.
A ripe kiwi should give slightly when you gently press the outside of the fruit. If you accidentally bought a kiwi that’s rock hard, let it rest at room temperature for a few days until it’s ripe. Keep ripe kiwis in the fridge for 3-6 days.
Unfortunately for consumers, raspberries stop ripening after they come off the plant. So to make sure you get the juiciest, most perfect bunch of raspberries at your supermarket, look for ones that are plump with a deep, rich colour.
If the bottom of the container is stained with juice, that’s a sign they might be a little overripe
We think all fruit is delicious and worthy of saving whether they’re perfectly plump, bruised, overripe, or have a funny shape. The key is to understand how to make the most of your faves no matter what stage they’re at.
Discover a diverse bounty of juicy summer fruits for less on the FoodHero app. It’s the easiest, most refreshing way to fight against food waste.
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