Shop Smarter: Picking perfect produce.

Great meals start with great ingredients. Here's what to look for when you shop for five essential fall fruits and vegetables.

produce on blue background
Photo: Getty Images

1. Better Brussels

If you buy them by the bag or loose from the bin, avoid those with yellowed leaves or black spots. Smaller Brussels sprouts tend to be sweeter; larger ones taste more like cabbage. You don't have to buy them on the stalk, but if you do, leave them attached until ready to use. They'll stay fresher longer because they'll keep drawing moisture from the stalk.

2. Crisper Cranberries

Cranberries start out white, turn deep red when ripe, and don't ripen after harvest. So the redder they are when you buy them, the better. Choose fresh berries that are shiny, plump, and free of shriveled or brown spots. Fun fact: Ripe fresh cranberries actually bounce when dropped. They'll keep in a plastic bag up to a month in the fridge or up to a year in the freezer.

3. Good Green Beans

You probably already know to choose brightly colored beans that are free of brown spots. But the best indicator of green bean freshness is the snap test: If the beans snap easily and audibly when bent, they're fresh. Bigger and overly mature beans tend to have tougher and more rubbery pods. Older beans tend to dry out, especially at the ends.

4. Perkier Pears

Pears don't ripen until after they're removed from the tree. So there's nothing wrong with buying an underripe pear. Unless you need a ripe pear right this minute, choose pears that are firm and free of cuts, cracks, or bruises. Keep them in a cool place, and let them ripen in a brown paper bag at room temperature for one to two days before using. Pears bruise easily, especially as they ripen, so handle them gently and wait to wash them and remove those pesky produce stickers until just before using.

5. Super Squash

Choose winter squash that feel heavy for their size and have dry stems. Avoid those with cuts, cracks, or soft spots, which invite mold and may indicate spoilage. (A pale spot on the bottom, caused by resting on the ground, is normal.) And hard matte skin is a good sign for most varieties. Shiny skin may indicate the squash was picked too early.

See more fall fruits and vegetable recipes.

This article originally appeared in the November 2017 issue of Allrecipes Magazine.