Let’s Talk Ripeness

watermelon
Spending 20 minutes trying to decipher which watermelon is going to be juiciest is not how anyone should spend their time. If you’re guilty of skipping certain fruits and vegetables altogether because you don’t know when they’re ripe, we’re ending that today. Keep reading for a guide to buying spring and summer staples, the best storage for extended freshness, and how to incorporate sustainable shopping practices.

SHOPPING:
The grocery store is the first place we can all reduce the plastic in our lives simply by making different choices. Please, for the love of all things beautiful, stop using the plastic produce bags for veggies. Veggies will be washed after purchasing anyway, so even if you forget your reusable bags, it’s not that serious to have them loose in the cart.

STORAGE:
Although the importance of plastic-free was emphasized, it’s worth saying that if you did bring produce home in packaging, it should never stay in it. Fruits and vegetables release a hormone when ripening causing any surrounding it to ripen quicker, especially speeding up its own process when left in a bag. “One bad apple spoils the whole bunch” is more than just a saying. The riper the fruit, the more hormones released. If your fresh produce goes bad quickly, this could be the culprit.

Use this to your advantage and implement storage habits around it. If you have overripe bananas & an underripe avocado, put them in the same bowl on your counter to speed up the ripening process for the avocado. Or, when you notice fruit that’s ready to eat but you’re not, place it in the refrigerator to add some shelf life. Cold temperatures stunt these hormones a bit and add a few extra days to its freshness.

Glassware is wonderful for storing cut veggies. Mason jars work great as well and are far more affordable.

COMPOSTING:
Americans throw away about $160 billion in food every year – approximately one-third of all food.

Instead of contributing to the toxic gases produced in landfills, composting is a great way to continue the cycle of life and make use of the abundant scraps that come with eating plant-based. You can use it in your own garden, or donate to a local community garden!

Alright. A slight firmness and dark green color are key with avocados (depending on variety. 99% of the time it’s hass, so dark green is good). Don’t squeeze – this bruises them. Instead, lightly press near the stem – there should be a slight give. Too much give indicates its bruised & overripe. Also, you can remove the stem. If its hard to pull off + the skin underneath is bright green, it’s underripe. Deeper green and a slight give, you’ve got a perfect avo. Left at room temperature, they will ripen twice as fast, staying fresh 2-3 days. Place it in the fridge once it’s ripe and gain an extra 5-7 days to enjoy it.

Note: If you cut an avocado and only intend on eating half, be sure to use the side without the seed &store the half with the seed still intact – this will keep it fresh to enjoy the next day.

Color is not really an indicator since ripe pineapple can be deep green. If it’s ripe, it will smell sweet at the bottom & have a slight give when squeezed. If it smells even slightly acidic or it’s wet/soft at the bottom… Put it down. That’s a hard pass. Still not sure? Pull a leaf from the inner crown; if it comes off easily, it’s ready.

Two major things to look for. First, a good watermelon should be heavier than it appears – this indicates the juices have developed. Second, a deep yellow spot. This shows it laid on the vine with time to ripen. If it is too yellow, it could be overripe and grainy but I honestly wouldn’t worry about that. More often than not, yellow spot = delicious. Eat within 3-5 days of cutting. Cut a whole watermelon within a week or so of purchasing.

Cantaloupe will smell sweet when ripe. Just like watermelon, this melon should also feel heavier than it looks. A cut cantaloupe will stay good for about 5-7 days in the fridge, or uncut at room temperature about two weeks.

Papayas are ready when they are pretty much completely yellow. The thing with these is they ripen quickly, so its best to buy with a little green if not eating immediately. If your only option is completely green papaya which is often the case, take it home and ripen at room temp. It’s typically ready in about 3-4 days when the flesh gives to light pressure.

There are several different varieties of mango, so color is not your best indication of ripeness with these either. The best way to judge ripeness is how soft it is. Softness with no brown spots.Depending on the variety, the stem will smell sweet when ripe. Store it at room temperature if you still need it to soften/ripen a bit. If it’s ready, keep it in the refrigerator for about 4-5 days. Mangos freeze great, so if you have too many that you won’t eat in time – cube them up & put in the freezer for smoothies.

An extra worth noting: bananas. Please love spotted ones. They are perfectly fine to eat and in fact much better for our digestive system. If your bananas ripen too fast, simply buy a few ripe + a few green to ripen slower. Also, no need to toss overripe bananas. Peel, break into halves, store in the freezer & they’re ready for smoothies.

Also, some notes on local farmers market veggies that we may not be storing in ideal conditions:

Potatoes. The cold is just not a happy place for potatoes. Leave them out of your refrigerator to keep their flavor and texture intact.

Onions. These should really only be refrigerated after being cut. When they’re whole, the moisture in refrigerators makes them turn.

*potatoes and onions spoil quicker when placed together. Keep them at room temperature – but separate if possible.

Tomatoes. Cold temps make them grainy and cause them to lose flavor.

Mushrooms. Store in a brown paper bag or cloth bag to give them an extra week or so of life. Also, these fungi are extremely absorbent and while this is great for soaking up the flavors in a dish, its sponge-like properties shouldn’t be wasted on water from rinsing. To clean dirt off, use a wet cloth and wipe instead of drenching with direct water.

Garlic. Bulbs should be kept dry and out of sunlight. Moisture is not best for garlic, so the fridge is not an ideal home for them. It’s also unnecessary since it will stay fresh for over 4 months on the counter. If it sprouts sooner than that, its possible it was exposed to water at the grocery store.

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