Home Page

Stefan's Florilegium


This document is also available in: text or RTF formats.

sel-frts-veg-msg - 6/28/00


Comments on selecting the best individual fruits and vegetables.


NOTE: See also the files: fruits-msg, vegetables-msg, fruit-apples-msg, root-veg-msg, gourds-msg, fruit-citrus-msg, leeks-msg, turnips-msg.





This file is a collection of various messages having a common theme that I have collected from my reading of the various computer networks. Some messages date back to 1989, some may be as recent as yesterday.


This file is part of a collection of files called Stefan's Florilegium. These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


I have done a limited amount of editing. Messages having to do with separate topics were sometimes split into different files and sometimes extraneous information was removed. For instance, the message IDs were removed to save space and remove clutter.


The comments made in these messages are not necessarily my viewpoints. I make no claims as to the accuracy of the information given by the individual authors.


Please respect the time and efforts of those who have written these messages. The copyright status of these messages is unclear at this time. If information is published from these messages, please give credit to the originator(s).


Thank you,

    Mark S. Harris                  AKA:  THLord Stefan li Rous

                                          Stefan at florilegium.org



Date: Sat, 19 Feb 2000 08:39:49 -0500

From: Philip & Susan Troy <troy at asan.com>

Subject: Re: SC - selecting fruits and vegetables


"Laura C. Minnick" wrote:

> Stefan li Rous wrote:

> > No one has answered the main question of my message, though. I was looking

> > for suggestions on how to select the best fruits and vegetables in the

> > loose produce stacks at the grocery or farmer's market.


>  Follow around the older women- 60-70 is my guess, and ask their advice.

> They'd probably be tickled to have a 'young fellow' asking their

> opinion! And they usually know... at least my gramma is better at

> produce than I am (and I'm pretty good...)


> 'Lainie


Just watch out for the old ladies that squeeze and pinch everything, a

la "Tampopo"; you'll wind up in jail, and the worst part will be having

to explain that you were just trying to learn which were the good cantaloupes...


Seriously, Stefan, what you asked was a difficult question to answer

because the parameters are different for every vegetable and fruit. Much

as it kills me to suggest it, I wouldn't be at all surprised if there

were some kind of quick reference on <shudder>

http://www.marthastewart.com  . See if there's anything about choosing

produce at the USDA site. Another good place to look would be, if you

have such things where you are, a farmer's market, usually sponsored by

your state's Department of Agriculture And Markets (okay, that's what

New York State has; YMMV). They will often print up little flyers on the subject.


You might also look and see if any authors such as, for example, Bruce

Cost (who has a wonderfully encyclopedic tome on Asian produce), have

written something that answers your questions. You might also check

vegetarian, organic and/or whole food cookbooks, the rationale being if

you're going to eat only vegetables, you don't want to eat bad ones.


In general, in the case of fruits, there should be a pronounced fruit

aroma (presumably of the fruit that it is!), especially if the fruit is

at or near room temperature. Remember part of the fruit's job is to

attract animals that'll spread the seeds around. Fruit and vegetables

should [almost] never feel light for their size; this is something best

learned by experience, but in general you want denser fruits and veggies

that are heavier than the others of their approximate volume. You don't

want to find a big empty space filled with caterpillars or something,

hence this warning, not to mention getting more food for your money.

Melons and things which do legitimately have a cavity, you want to have

thick walls and a lot of flesh, so again you want them to be heavy. Some

should be squeezable (NOT a la "Tampopo"!), others, such as quinces and,

of course, turnips, won't be, ideally. Apples of almost all types, some

pears, and quinces, as I've said, in addition to most root vegetables,

will be pretty hard. (Soft, wiggly root vegetables indicates either that

they're dried out or that they've been frozen. Same for green beans and

asparagus, which, BTW, should neither be the subject of sexual fantasy

nor pencil-thin. Awright, I bet I'm in trouble for that one. Please form

an orderly line; everyone will get a shot at me in the order in which

you queue up.)


As you can see, I could probably go on like this for, well, maybe

forever. You can either approach this problem by looking for specific

information about, say, turnips, which I'm sure lots of people on this

list can help with, or try one of the other, more comprehensive methods above.




Date: Sat, 19 Feb 2000 07:06:26 -0500

From: "Tim & Dee" <timdee at sgi.net>

Subject: Re: SC - selecting fruits and vegetables


Greetings to the list and to Lord Stefan.


I spent my youth working for different family members in either the

greenhouse/farm market or at the large roadside stand.  We usually rotate

our stock down the oldest out in front. This is also the reason that super

markets have sloped displays .Right after high school I worked for a large

super market in the pittsburgh area and this is also how they rotated our

produce. We would cull out any blemished or bad produce daily and either

throw it out or depending on the product rewrap it and put it on a reduced

rack. Knowing how long you will be keeping the produce and what it is to be

used for will effect the degree of ripeness that you buy them at. In example

apples if being used for pies or sauce they can be prepared and canned or

frozen until they are needed . If they are to be served fresh the time of

the year and space or room you have to store them will dictate as to when

you should buy them and this goes for most any produce. Another way is to

read the descriptions on or in seed packets/catalogs as to what ready to use

produce should look  be like.  If all else fails ask your mom, grandma,

aunts who are good cooks and shoppers.


Laochlain Silverwolfe,  Member of House Firebrand, Shire of SunderOak,

Kingdom of Aethelmearc



Date: Sat, 19 Feb 2000 10:12:59 -0500

From: "Alderton, Philippa" <phlip at morganco.net>

Subject: Re: SC - selecting fruits and vegetables


Adamantius is right- there are so many different types of fruit and

vegetables, that it's pretty much a plant by plant proposition. For example,

with tomatoes, you want bright red ones, with flesh of a certain firmness.

What if they're yellow tomatoes? Or what if you want green tomatoes, for



Adamantius sez:

>and asparagus, which, BTW, should neither be the subject of sexual fantasy

nor pencil-thin. <


Here, he's about half accurate, despite his joking. While it is true that

most commercial varieties are of a certain thickness in proportion to their

length, there are varieties which are very thin and tender, as well as very

thick and tender- my local stores carry several strains throughout the year

at different times, depending on what's growing where. Most asparagus should

be green- there are purplish varieties, some so purple they're almost black,

and there are white varieties, some of which are so white they almost glow

in the dark.


It all boils down to experience, and the only way you're going to get

experience is by bringing them home and trying them. You might experiment a

bit, by bringing home a couple of whatever, and trying one immediately, and

another after a few days sitting on your counter. Many fruits and vegetables

are under-ripe because they ship them that way so they look good when they

get here, others have been here a bit too long.


Another question, is that some people like their f & v more or less ripe

than other people do- bananas are an excellent example- it's kinda like, how

do you like your meat cooked- rare, medium, or well done. With bananas, most

people buy them by the bunch, which usually starts out green on the ends,

matures into full yellow, then starts getting brownish spots on it. Some

people look for the latter specificly for making banana bread, others think

that's the only way to eat them, others will only eat them one of the first

two ways, and others just don't care- they want a banana.


The suggestions about checking with little old ladies is good but don't

forget talking to your produce manager as well. They can tell you what has

just arrived, and what has been there for a few days, and if they're not

terribly busy, might take the time to show you about a specific item. Don't

forget to look around, too, for giveaway recipes and produce information- a

lot of stores are putting up racks with information about their produce (and

meats) so people will try different things, and maybe buy more.


Also, many stores are doing samples on weekends, with fresh f & v, either to

showcase them, or to showcase a dip or spread. I used to joke, when I lived

in Athens, that I was going down to my local grocery for lunch on Saturday

afternoon, on all the samples ;-)


When you are looking, though, you use several of your senses. First, you use

your eyes- what colors are on the item? Does it have blemishes, or what

appear to be blemishes? Some fruits do, at their peak of ripeness, others

have blemishes which will cause no problems at all, for your purposes.


Smell them- A was right on that- the smell will tell you a lot. He was also

absolutely correct about feeling their weight. Gently squeezing them, with

the softer skinned things, like tomatoes, peaches, etc, will help, too.


And for melons, most of them you can tap gently with your knuckles. There is

a sort of hollow thump, which varies a bit from melon to melon, which tells

me where they are.


Once you've looked them over, you then make your decisions- are they

something you'll want to sit on your counter in a paper bag for a couple

days, so they finish ripening? Are they perfect now, but they'll keep a

couple days in the fridge, until the meal you planned for them? Are they

good today, but will be past their prime tomorrow, so you want to cook them

today? Or are they just plain too old, and you'll give them a pass- if you

really need them for something, you'll look in the frozen food case?




Philippa Farrour

Caer Frig

Southeastern Ohio



Date: Sat, 19 Feb 2000 10:51:03 EST

From: DianaFiona at aol.com

Subject: Re: SC - selecting fruits and vegetables


    In addition to all the good suggestions made so far, I seem to recall

reading occasional articles in gardening magazines on how to tell if various

veggies are ready to pick. You might, opportunity and time allowing, look in

back issues of Organic Gardening, and perhaps Kitchen Garden, since those are

the main ones I read. The information, best I remember, was both in separated

articles on what's ripe when, and mixed in with articles highlighting

individual fruits and veggies..............


                Ldy Diana



Date: Sat, 19 Feb 2000 07:52:01 -0800

From: Anne-Marie Rousseau <acrouss at gte.net>

Subject: Re: SC - selecting fruits and vegetables


hey all from Anne-Marie

on selection of produce


here's a few tips my mommy and the nice man at the local independant

grocery store told me....


1. regular button mushrooms should be white. dirt is ok. no squishyparts,

and the cap underneath should be sealed. Dont buy a lot of stem.

2. cantelopes should have a faint orange tint behind the "net". the place

where the vine was should be slightly soft, and if you sniff there, you'll

smell a nice melon smell.

3. asparagus should be local! and if you bend it, it should snap close to

the root end, not up at the top, and not just bend

4. carrots when you go wiggle wiggle shouldnt flop around

5. different varieties of pears are at different hardnesses when ripe, so

sniff 'em and if they smell like a nice ripe pear, you're good to go.

Otherwise, buy one and eat it. if its good, buy more...

6. bananas should be unblemished and uniformly yellow. If you buy them

green, let them sit in a paper bag or on the counter in a bowl with other

fruit to ripen

7, avacados can be ripened in a bag too, and should be bought as squishy as

possible, as long as they're uniformly squishy (ie ripe, not just mooshed)

8. As a general rule, bigger isnt better for fruits and veggies. Often the

bigger ones are just woody or watery.

9. if you're buying herbs or greens in bags, avoid water in the container

like the plague...this often means they've been frozen by accident and will

go mushy in a day or so.

10. tomatoes should smell like tomatoes. If they dont, they wont have much


11. Bell peppers should be nice and shiney and unblemished, but most

importantly, if you take your finger and rub the skin, it shouldnt wrinkle

or move (this is sign that they're older and drying out)

12. be polite about squeezing fruit...often it bruises it and the produce

man gets cranky. I find a good sniff helps, and if they're good, they'll

give you a sample even.

13. everything is better when its local, and most importantly in season.

Apples in the new crop are tasty treats. Apples from a year ago can be

mealy and flavorless. Ditto turnips and even squashes.


Again, I find the nice man in the produce dept of my local Ballard Market

to be an amazing help. Also, if I'm doing a banquet, I call my local Sosio

brothers produce stand and ask them to pick out primo stuff for me ahead of

time. I show up, pay them and leave with boxes of wonderful stuff.


I understand that in France, when you go to the grocer, you are not

supposed to handle the food. All much more sanitary, but somehow

unsatisfying!!! I find the sniff and inspect ritual a very important part

of my grocery shopping....the hunting and gathering genes, I guess :).


- --AM



Date: Sat, 19 Feb 2000 10:14:04 -0600

From: "Branwen" <branwen at ona-stella.com>

Subject: Re: SC - selecting fruits and vegetables


Is iceburg lettuce period? Even if it's not, here's a tip: don't go by the

"heavy for its size" rule when dealing with lettuce. Heads of lettuce should

be light - if they're not, they're probably full of bitter, white-and-yellow

icky parts. The good leaves weigh a lot less than the bad ones.


And someone already mentioned how to choose a melon, but I just need to say

that melon season is my absolute favorite. The produce section gets pretty

musical when I'm around. :)





Date: Sat, 19 Feb 2000 09:47:20 -0800

From: "Laura C. Minnick" <lcm at efn.org>

Subject: Re: SC - selecting fruits and vegetables


Philip & Susan Troy wrote:

>... Same for green beans and

> asparagus, which, BTW, should neither be the subject of sexual fantasy

> nor pencil-thin. Awright, I bet I'm in trouble for that one. Please form

> an orderly line; everyone will get a shot at me in the order in which

> you queue up.)




Personally, I prefer the 'sparagus that is 1/2-5/8" thick. It seems

(IMHO) to have better developed flavor that the pencil stuff. But fatter

is woody and tends to be dry. Takes all kinds, I suppose.


I also store it standing up in a shallow dish of water. Does anyone else

do this?





Date: Sat, 19 Feb 2000 14:17:33 -0500

From: Philip & Susan Troy <troy at asan.com>

Subject: Re: SC - selecting fruits and vegetables


"Laura C. Minnick" wrote:

> Personally, I prefer the 'sparagus that is 1/2-5/8" thick. It seems

> (IMHO) to have better developed flavor that the pencil stuff. But fatter

> is woody and tends to be dry. Takes all kinds, I suppose.


Yes, but that's kind of what I'm driving at. You can't assume that the

little bitty ones are tender (and they often lack flavor), and the

really thick ones are usually either woody and tough, or at least have

to be pretty extensively peeled. I think the measurements you mention

are about on the money. Of course there may be different varieties with

different characteristics in different markets, different areas.  


> I also store it standing upin a shallow dish of water. Does anyone else

> do this?


No, storage usually isn't a problem; they're rarely in the house for

more than a couple of hours. I've heard of people cooking them upright

in a tall pot, like a coffee pot, though.





Date: Sun, 20 Feb 2000 20:24:40 EST

From: LrdRas at aol.com

Subject: Re: SC - selecting fruits and vegetables


acrouss at gte.net writes:

<<  avocados can be ripened in a bag too, and should be bought as squishy as

possible, as long as they're uniformly squishy (i.e. ripe, not just mooshed)



Excuse me for disagreeing. Avocados should yield to slight pressure.

"Squishy' ones have flesh that is discolored in spots and develops an off

taste which can border on bitterness. Also avoid avocados than have dark

spots on the skin. The skin should be bright green, glossy and smooth with no

discoloration for the large California types while Florida types should be

pebbly, black with no sign of discolored spots and no wrinkles. Do not

refrigerate avocados as they will develop blotched brown/greyish flesh.




<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org