How to Know When Your Favorite Summer Fruits Are Ripe & Ready:
Summertime is all about the fresh fruit! Here at Nutrition Factors we love fruits. We include and brag about them in our healthy weight loss program and GRID DIET whenever we can. We know you’re a fruit fan too but sometimes these tasty treats from mother nature can play (sometimes tart) tricks. Is that honeydew ripe? Are those mangos on the counter you forgot about rancid? When do pineapples taste most heavenly? Knowing what to look for when you shop for fruit is important all year long. However, summer is the time of year when the consumption of fresh fruit (as compared to fruit that is canned, frozen, or dried) is highest. One reason is that most of us prefer to eat lighter during the hot summer months, and fruit qualifies because it is light, wholesome, and so very refreshing.
We also prefer not to be spending long periods of time cooped up in a hot kitchen, fussing over complicated recipes. Fruit is certainly a food that requires little muss or fuss. In fact, many fruits qualify as farm to table. If you buy them at the farmers market, they may have been picked the same morning. Then, in the evening your family is eating the fruit, more often than not, with no cooking whatsoever. Where some advance preparation is involved (washing, peeling, removing pits, dicing, blending with other ingredients), the amount of labor is minimal.
Another reason why fresh fruits are especially popular during the summer is that it is the time of year when they are most likely to be in season. What this means for consumers is plentiful supply, cheaper prices, and better quality. Fruit that is in season not only looks better and tastes better than underripe or overripe fruit; its nutrition level is also at its max.
Unfortunately, and particularly, if you buy your fruit at a supermarket rather than at a farmers market, even sticking to fruits that are in season, not everything being sold is top quality. Unless you know what to look for and make your selections carefully, you could wind up with fruit that can run the gamut from rock hard to mushy, slightly sour to cloyingly sweet, and from so-so in taste to inedible. Depending on the fruit, the signs you should look for vary. Here are the important guidelines for 11 of the most popular summer fruits, in alphabetical order.
With all this in mind, we’ve put together a guide line for you so that you can know when your peaches and plums peak in flavor! This is how to tell when your favorite summer fruits are ripe and ready:
A ripe honeydew melon, like a ripe cantaloupe, will feel heavy for its size. Another clue as to whether or not honeydew is ripe is the color of its skin. Ripe honeydews are golden, rather than white, green, or yellow, and their skin is smooth and free of blemishes, but not shiny (which indicates under ripeness). A ripe honeydew will give a little when pressed on the underside. Honeydew that is too firm is under-ripe, while honeydew that is too soft is overripe. When you give the melon a shake, if you feel the seeds slurping, that is another sign that it is overripe.
Honeydew, like cantaloupe, will ripen in color, texture, and juiciness after harvesting, so if your melon is underripe, you can let it continue to ripen on your kitchen countertop before eating it.
Ripe honeydew will keep in the refrigerator for 5 to 7 days. Honeydew can also be frozen for later use.
The color of a mango won’t provide any clues as to its ripeness, but you can tell by touching it. If it feels a little soft and gives slightly, it is ripe. There may be a fruity aroma as well.
Mangos that are not quite ripe when purchased can be left on the kitchen countertop to ripen and should be ready to eat in a few days. Ripe mangos should be stored in plastic bags in the refrigerator, where they will stay fresh for up to a week. Or you can freeze mangos for longer term storage.
Mangos that are squishy, have black or brown spots, or give off a funny smell are overripe and should be discarded.
Ripe peaches are yellow to red in color. The red areas are the part of the fruit that faced the sun, while the yellow areas are the part of the fruit that faced away from the sun.
The best test of ripeness for a peach is to look at the area near the stem. It should be free of any green tint. Ripe peaches also give slightly when touched and smell the way you want a peach to taste.
Peaches that are not fully ripe at the time of purchase will continue to ripen if kept at room temperature. Ripe peaches, if placed in plastic bags in the refrigerator, will retain their quality for 3 to 5 days. Or, for longer term storage, peaches can be frozen.
You will know that a peach is spoiled by its appearance. Peaches that are very soft, moldy, have dark spots and start to ooze, or have a funny smell are already rotten and need to be discarded.
The rule of thumb when shopping for fresh pineapple is to look for brightly colored fruit with a fruity smell, and the bigger and plumper, the better. According to Dole Pineapple Hawaii (2017), a large pineapple won’t necessarily taste better than a small one, but the advantage to buying a large one is a greater proportion of edible fruit. Dole Pineapple also recommends choosing pineapples with a sturdy shell that are firm, rather than soft and mushy, but not rock hard either, and have fresh bright green leaves. Avoid pineapples that are sunken or dull in color.
The shell of a pineapple can vary in color from all green to all yellow. However, the ideal hue is golden brown with some green coloring at the base. Experts disagree about whether or not to buy a pineapple that is all green. It may still be ripe, but probably not as sweet and juicy as it could be.
The scent is another important consideration. If the fruit has no scent at all, it is not yet ripe. However, if it smells vinegary or becomes moldy, it is overripe. Other conditions that you never want to see in a pineapple are wrinkled skin and leaves, soft and spongy skin, split skin, or leaking juice, all signs of spoilage.
Pineapples do not continue to ripen after they harvested, so what you take home from the market is what you get. If it is underripe or overripe, you are out of luck.
A whole pineapple will retain its quality only for 1-2 days unrefrigerated, but 3-5 days in the refrigerator. Pineapples can also be frozen for future use.
Just because a plum is a deep purple color, that doesn’t necessarily mean it is ripe. It could be the same color when first beginning to grow on the tree. A plum is ripe when its skin is smooth and slightly soft. Avoid plums that are wrinkled, hard, or mushy. When pressed gently, a ripe plum will yield slightly.
Plums that are not fully ripe at the time of purchase will continue to ripen at home if kept at room temperature. However, ripe plums should be refrigerated in plastic bags, which will extend their shelf life to 3 to 5 days. Plums can also be frozen to use at a later date.
Once a plum has become very soft, developed dark spots, or is starting to ooze, become moldy, or smell bad, it is already spoiled, and should be discarded.
Ripe strawberries have an unmistakable sweet scent that mimics how they will taste. If the strawberries you see in the market have no discernible smell, the taste will probably be ho-hum, too.
Strawberries should be bright red with firmly attached green caps, and free of any blemishes. On the other hand, when it comes to strawberries, bigger and redder doesn’t necessarily mean better. Smaller strawberries are actually preferable to large ones, as they tend to have a better flavor. Strawberries that are not bright red are probably not sweet, but you won’t see many of those, and unfortunately, the reverse is not always true. Unripe strawberries can also be bright red, which makes the task of selecting good strawberries harder. In fact, strawberries can be picture perfect in appearance, and yet not taste good at all. That’s why you should let your nose be the judge.
Also be sure to check the bottom of the container. If there are any berries that are soft, mushy, moldy, or bruised (in other words, overripe), that is where they are likely to be.
Prepackaged strawberries should not be packed too tightly, and make sure the container is dry. Any stains or moisture on the container increases the likelihood that the berries are already spoiled.
Once strawberries have been harvested, they become redder, but they don’t continue to ripen. They also need to be properly handled, then consumed as soon as possible because even though they won’t become riper if not already ripe, they can turn rotten.
Fresh strawberries are best kept either in their original container or in plastic bags in the refrigerator. That should give them a shelf life of 3-7 days. Or for longer storage, strawberries can be frozen. Before placing any strawberries in the refrigerator, check them individually and discard any that already look damaged. However, wait until you are ready to use them before washing them.
Selecting fruit that is ripe, but not overripe, can be tricky. While color is a good indication for some fruits, like blueberries and peaches, for others, like strawberries and mangos, it is not. You won’t be able to taste the fruit before you buy it (unless the store is giving out free samples), but you can and should use your good sense of sight, smell, and touch. A fruit that is heavy for its size is probably ripe. So is a fruit with a sweet (but not overly sweet) scent. Freezing is a viable option for all of the summer fruits mentioned above if you want to save them for later use.
Don’t see your favorite summer fruit? Check out these articles for more fun facts and ready, ripe, eat tricks!
Corriher, S. (2017, June/July). Choosing fruit that’s fully ripe. Fine Cooking. Retrieved from http://www.finecooking.com/article/choosing-fruit-thats-truly-ripe
Dole Fruit Hawaii. (2017). Select a pineapple. Retrieved from https://www.dolefruithawaii.com/Articles.asp?ID=143
Dziemianowicz, J. (2017, June 21). How to tell if your favorite summer fruits are ripe. New York Daily News. Retrieved from http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/big-town/favorite-summer-fruits-ripe-article-1.3266307
Keyser, H. (2015, July 18). How to tell when 8 fruits are at their tastiest. Retrieved from http://mentalfloss.com/article/66206/how-tell-when-8-fruits-are-their-tastiest
Still Tasty (2017). Your ultimate shelf life guide: Keep it or toss it. Retrieved from http://www.stilltasty.com/
TBSP. (2017). How to choose a pineapple. Retrieved from https://www.tablespoon.com/posts/how-to-choose-a-pineapple
Thomson, J.R. (2015, August 18). 12 tricks for buying the ripest summer produce. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/08/18/ripe-fruit_n_1819430.html