Tips for buying, ripening, and eating fruit

Stone Fruits

Peaches, Plums, Apricots 

  • Let soften in a closed brown paper bag on the countertop until they yield slightly to the touch. Store in the fridge for a few days if you’re not ready to eat them. 
  • Add fresh slices to yogurt, cereal, oatmeal, or grain or green salads. 
  • Don’t forget summer’s dazzling hybrids like pluots, plumcots, and apriums. 

Cherries 

  • To prevent them from getting soft and moldy, don’t wash them until you’re ready to serve. 
  • Toss frozen pitted dark sweet cherries in oatmeal, smoothies, or yogurt. 

Berries

  • To prevent any kind of berries from getting soft or moldy, don’t wash them until you’re ready to serve. 
  • Got extra fresh berries? Freeze ‘em on a tray so they don’t stick together. Then transfer to an airtight container or bag. 
  • For the most intense flavor, try (pea-size) wild blueberries. For most of the year, you’ll only find them in the freezer case. Exception: late summer in New England, where they’re picked fresh.

Melons

  • The stem end of a cantaloupe should have a smooth, round, depressed scar. 
  • A ripe cantaloupe has a yellowish cast to its rind. Honeydews are ripe when they have a creamy yellow color and are tacky to the touch. 
  • The underside of a ripe watermelon has a creamy yellow spot from where it sat on the ground and ripened. 
  • Scrub melon rinds under running water with a clean produce brush before cutting. 
  • Mini (“personal”) watermelons are easier to cut. 

Tropical Fruits

Mangos 

  • Ripe mangos should give slightly when squeezed gently. Sniff for a sweet aroma. Color isn’t a good way to tell whether a mango is ripe. 
  • Honey mangos—also called Champagne or Ataulfo—are smaller and sweeter. They’re in season from March to June. Don’t miss ‘em. 
  • Want to skip the peeling, pitting, and chopping? Snack on a bag of frozen mango chunks. 

Papayas 

  • Let ripen at room temperature until the skin is mostly yellow-orange. 
  • Slice in half lengthwise, scoop out the black seeds with a spoon, cut off the rind, then slice into chunks. 
  • Top with a squeeze of fresh lime juice before you dig in. The acidity really peps up the flavor. 

Kiwis 

  • Don’t want to peel? Try a gold kiwi. Its (edible) skin is less fuzzy than a green kiwi’s. And the yellow flesh—it holds a smaller core and fewer seeds—is sweeter. 
  • Gold kiwis have nearly twice as much vitamin C as green kiwis. Greens have more vitamin K. So mix it up! 
  • Gold kiwis are easiest to find from May to November. 
  • Keep your eyes peeled for kiwi berries. They pop up for a short time in fall or winter. The grape-size fruit has smooth (edible) skin and kiwi-like flesh.

Pineapples 

  • Look for deep-green leaves and yellowish skin. 
  • Cut them up when they start to smell sweet, then refrigerate. 

Bananas 

  • Keep them on the countertop. Storing them in the fridge slows ripening and turns the skins black. 
  • On the verge of overripe? Peel, chop, and freeze. A few chunks of frozen banana take just about any smoothie from lackluster to creamy and sweet. 
  • Don’t want your bananas to ripen so fast? Store them away from other fruits and wrap their stem ends in a bit of plastic wrap.

Apples & Pears

Apples 

  • Don’t toss the skin. It contains about half the apple’s fiber. 
  • Want to go beyond Red Delicious? Try Honeycrisp, Cosmic Crisp, Fuji, SweeTango, Ambrosia, Envy, Kiku, Lady Alice, Jazz, or (naturally non-browning) Opal.

Pears 

  • Color isn’t a good way to tell if a pear is ripe. While a Bartlett’s skin color brightens as it ripens, most varieties show little change. 
  • The pear producers’ advice: “Check the neck.” Pears are ripe when the flesh around the stem yields to gentle pressure. 
  • Exception: Asian pears (which are round like apples) stay crisp. They’re picked when ripe, so you can eat them as soon as you buy them. Try one sliced in a leafy green salad. 

Citrus Fruits

Oranges 

  • Enjoy pink-fleshed Cara Cara or maroon blood oranges from December to May. Both add a pop of color to salads. 
  • Like clementines? Also try tangy, juicy, easy-to-peel satsumas from October to January and larger, super-sweet Sumos from January to April. 

Lemons 

  • Meyer lemons are a little sweeter and less acidic than regular lemons.

Grapefruits 

  • Look for thin, smooth skin. And the heavier they are compared to grapefruits of a similar size, the juicier they are.

Pick Organic?

If a fruit doesn’t have a rind or inedible peel, you can help reduce your exposure to pesticide residues by buying organic. (That rule of thumb isn’t perfect because some pesticides get into a fruit’s flesh, but it should help.)

If you also buy organic bananas, cantaloupes, or other fruit with peels or rinds, think of it as a present to the planet and to farmworkers.

Just keep in mind that if it’s a choice between eating fruit grown with pesticides and not eating fruit, you’re far better off eating the fruit.

A few examples:


Don’t Fear Fruit

Worried about catching the coronavirus from fruit? Don’t be. Just do what you always do: rinse fresh produce under running water (don’t use soap, detergent, or disinfectants). And wash your hands before preparing or eating any food.

Photos: stock.adobe.com (top to bottom): dimakp/stock.adobe.com, azzurrodesign/pixabay.com, bergamont/adobestock.com, Ancelin/pixabay.com, Capri23auto/pixabay.com, Roman Samokhin/stock.adobe.com.

The information in this post first appeared in the June 2020 issue of Nutrition Action Healthletter.


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