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You see them at the farmer’s market, in produce sections of grocery stores and weaving intently through u-pick orchards. They’re the people who seem to be telepathically communicating with every melon, avocado and peach to hand select the most perfectly ripe fruit specimens. The good news is that it’s not magic; it’s practice. With a few simple rules of thumb, you too can become a ripe fruit whisperer!
There are two kinds of fruit: the kind that’s ripe when it’s picked, and fruit that ripens after it’s harvested. Many berries like blueberries, strawberries, elderberries and blackberries require no additional ripening because they’re only removed from the mother plant when they’re sweet, juicy and fully ripe. For instance, apples, citrus fruits like cara cara oranges, lemons and grapefruits, dragon fruit and watermelons are ready to eat as soon as you get your hands on them.
Other fruits like bananas, stone fruits and avocados need a little more time to fully ripen before they’re at their most delicious. Here are the four things you need to know to tell when just about any fruit is perfectly ripe.
Step 1: Heavyweight Champions
Fruits that are ripe typically feel surprisingly heavy in your hand relative to their size. That’s because over time, the fruit’s starches break down making the fruit softer and oftentimes juicier. Fruits that feel lighter are often immature and hard, or past their prime with dehydration. Sometimes you’ll want to buy fruit that’s not-too-ripe yet so that you may enjoy newly ripened avos or pears throughout the week. Avoid or discard any over-ripened or brittle fruits.
Step 2:The Pressure Test
Have you ever sliced into a dazzling green avocado, only to find that it’s flavorless and hard as a rock? It’s a mistake you want to avoid repeating. One way to do that is to master the art of gently squeezing fruit with minimal pressure.
With the fruit in the palm of your hand, gently place the pad of your thumb into the center or thickest part of the fruit. Press in slowly with minimal pressure so that you don’t bruise the fruit or break the skin. Immediately you’ll have a sense of how soft the fruit is. The softer the fruit, the more ripe it is.
Step 3: The Nose Knows
Ripe fruit is sweetly fragrant, but not overpowering. The aroma of ripe fruit should be light, bright and pleasant, like a pile of peaches at the grocery store in late July. Too ripe, and you’ll start to smell the sugars break down as the fermentation process begins. Sometimes this can smell pretty good, but more often than not it can be quite overpowering.
Step 4: A-peel-ing Color
Have you ever bitten into a banana and immediately wonder if you’re eating a raw potato? Any banana fanatic will tell you that a banana tastes very different each day, and the easiest way to predict its flavor is by looking at its color. The same goes for other fruits like cantaloupes and pineapples.
Essentially, a light green color on a peel or rind indicates that the fruit is not yet ripe. The second the green color leaves a banana peel, you have a perfect banana. When selecting melons and pineapples, look in the grooves of the rind for how much green is left. A little is fine, but the less green you see, the better the chances that the fruit is in its juicy prime.
Pro tip: In addition to selecting fruits that are ripened beautifully, examine the produce for bumps, bruises and scrapes. While some fruits’ flavors aren’t affected by a little scuff here and there (and they make for excellent smoothies and shakes), select fruit that has as few blemishes as possible. This way, when you enjoy a whole fruit, you’ll be able to fully appreciate the way a fruit’s distinct flavors and sweetness truly shine!Now that you know all the tricks of the trade, spread the word! Show us your ripe fruit finds and tell us all about your fruit whispering skills and ripeness tips in our FruitStand Community on Facebook!