Most people know instinctively to avoid bruised or blemished produce, but there is much more involved in the art of choosing fruits and vegetables.
While buying fresh food is always a little bit of a craps shoot (and not every rule will apply to every piece of produce), these tips will give you the basic skills you need to hold your own at the farmers market.
Be wary of supermarkets
You may find better quality and fresher produce at specialist butchers (Fresh Meat Vendors) and fruit and vegetable shops than at your local supermarket. Farmers' markets can also be a source of good-quality fresh produce. Organic meat, fruit and veggies are more likely to be locally produced and organic farmers often choose tastier veggies, especially for fruit.
Eat seasonal fruit and vegetables
Now that so much produce is available for most of the year, it's easy to lose track of its seasonality. Fruit and vegetables that are in season are likely to be fresher, tastier and more nutritious. What's in season at any one time obviously varies across the country. See the Seasonal Food Guide for where to get current information for your area. There are also services that will deliver boxes of in-season local fruit and veg straight to your door.
This simple chart from Eat Seasonably sets out a simple calendar of what fruits and vegetables can be eaten at certain times of the year.
Choose ripe fruit
The fruit should look evenly coloured, with a bright appearance. Feel for a tender texture, and smell the stem end for stone fruit and the blossom end for apples, tomatoes and melons. Only buy fruit with a full, fruity aroma.
Scrutinise your vegetables
Green vegetables should be crisp and not shrivelled or yellow. With broccoli and lettuce, check there's no rot at the end of the stem. If you don't like the look of what's on offer, you're probably better off buying frozen or canned vegetables. While they may not be as crisp and crunchy, frozen vegetables retain most of their nutrients and can be more nutritious than "fresh" vegetables that have been transported over long distances. Canned vegetables (and fruit) also retain most of their original nutrients. They have less vitamin C, but the levels of dietary fibre, carotene and folate aren't much affected by the canning process.
--- Tips for choosing fresh meat
Photo Courtesy of Google Images
- Some meat is packaged on black plastic trays covered with cling film; make sure there is no contact with the cling film as toxic chemicals can leach from it into the meat.
- Discoloration around the bone and a stale meat smell when packaging is opened are signs the meat isn't fresh.
- Make sure vacuum-packed meat has not lost its seal, as it increases the risk of contamination by harmful bacteria.