How to Pick Perfectly Ripe Fruit

How to Pick Perfectly Ripe Fruit Every Time

Biting into a perfectly ripened piece of fruit is enough to convince you to give up baked goods and plant your own garden. The combination of flavor, juice, and sweetness in a ripe mango, apple, plum or berry is the stuff of life itself.

Most people don't know how to choose fruit that's properly ripe. While looks do count, you can't decide which fruits are ready to go home with you by just looking them. If you rely solely on appearance, you're missing out on a world of flavor.

Buy Your Fruits Only in Season

As Everett points out, apples in spring are generally imported from far away or are being harvested several months before they should be. The best way to get good fruit is to know what grows in your area and during what season. 

Choose Dense, Heavy Fruits

Pick up your fruit and heft it: it should feel substantial. If it's surprisingly heavy and dense considering its size, all the better: that means your fruit has a lot of water weight and will be accordingly juicy. This is especially true of melons and citrus

A light, puffy-feeling orange or lemon is a dry, sad orange or lemon. Having said that, if you need a lot of zest for a recipe, I'd say go ahead and get the light, puffy lemon. Its lack of moisture makes it easier to zest.

A Stronger Aroma Means a Better Fruit

Aroma is a good indication of the amount of flavor your fruit will have. Go ahead and hold up that nectarine and breathe in deeply. If it smells ripe, sweet, and you can tell what kind of fruit it is even with your eyes closed, then that fruit should go home with you ASAP.

If you smell a piece of fruit and you get a faint to nonexistent aroma, put it back on the stack. Alas, this trick works only at farmer's markets since refrigeration in supermarkets checks the development of aroma.

Pick the More Vibrant Fruit

For many fruits, color indicates if they are ready to be eaten. Food scientist and author Shirley Corriher describes the process: As the acids within the fruit turn to sugar, the green chlorophyll breaks down and reveals the bright color underneath. Berries turn redder or bluer, bananas become bright yellow, and apples reveal their blush. Rich, vibrant color tells you that the fruit is ripe enough to eat especially if that color happens in conjunction with the other factors mentioned above.

Discoloration, an Indicator of Sweetness

Don't be afraid of fruit with discolorations, black dots, and brown spots. Everett says that on many fruits, the black spots are signs that bees have been at it, which is a good thing, since they head for the sweetest, ripest fruit. He says that some of the best eating oranges and mandarins bear those marks and tend to have skin defects and also makes a point of buying "ugly" or misshapen fruit as well.

However, most markets reject those fruits since they fear consumers won't buy them. As for brown spots, many shoppers fear that they're signs of rot, but produce workers know that on many fruits, like pears, they're actually signs that the fruit is ready for eating.
Size: Bigger Isn't Always Better

Oversized fruit is generally all looks, no taste. Everett advises that you pass up really gigantic fruit since it usually indicates that it's been grown out of season.

Go for Hollow & Full Melons 

That melon-thumping test? It works. I personally rely on a combination of smell and touch to tell when most melons are ripe: sniff the stem (also called the blossom) end of the melon, and while you're at it, press on the area around the stem. It should have some give, which indicates the melon was picked when it was ripe. As for the thump test, hold the watermelon (or other melon) in one hand and give it a good thwack with the other. The melon should sound hollow and full, and reverberate ever so slightly. If it sounds flat and solid, put it back. 

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