By Allrecipes Magazine

Shop sense-ibly for better produce

Even at summer's peak, vegetable and fruit quality can vary. For the freshest, ripest, and most flavorful options, seek produce grown near you, sample before buying whenever possible, and use all your senses as you shop. We'll share 5 quick tips to help you choose the best summer produce.

Photo: Allrecipes Magazine

1. Pick 'em up

Sweet, juicy fruits such as melons, pineapples, peaches, plums, and tomatoes should feel heavy for their size. A gentle squeeze can tell you a lot, too: If your peach feels hard as a rock, it's probably not ripe. You'll also want to turn melons over and check the spot where the fruit rested on the ground. Typically, the paler the spot, the less ripe the melon. A really yellow spot can signify it's overripe.

2. Look for fuzz

Cucumbers, zucchini, summer squash, peaches, and even some varieties of beans and okra can have faint fuzz or tiny prickly hairs when they're at their youngest and freshest. The absence of fuzz isn't necessarily bad; it can just mean the produce is more mature, has been defuzzed in cleaning, or has been off the vine a little longer. But generally, fine fuzz is a mighty fine thing.

3. Give 'em a snap

String beans, snap peas, asparagus, celery, carrots, and other woody or crunchy vegetables should snap easily and audibly when you bend them in half. If they're rubbery, they've been out of the field a good while.

4. Take a sniff

Produce that's fresh, ripe, and not overly chilled smells exactly like what it is. Corn, tomatoes, pineapples, stone fruits, and berries are good candidates for the smell test. If the fragrance is faint, the flavor may be, too.

5. Check stems, edges, and skins

Roots and stems and any parts of the produce that were cut or torn during harvesting can offer clues to the veggie's or fruit's overall freshness. The fresher the tear or cut, the fresher the produce. Dry or discolored stems and roots, yellow or brown leaf edges, and withered or dull skins often indicate age.

This article originally appeared in the June/July 2018 issue of Allrecipes Magazine.

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