When picking the freshest produce at the supermarket proves easier said than done, consult our easy guide to finding the best of the bunch.
Looks: If the bottom shows any hints of brown, avoid. Unlike most other fruits, ripe pineapples can be both yellow and green, there’s no reliable link to external colour and sweetness. When pineapples are harvested their sugar levels are tested, and if they’re optimal, they’ll be harvested regardless of the exterior colour.
Touch: A ripe pineapple should feel firm when squeezed.
Smell: Avoid pineapples that give off a fermented scent, like kombucha or beer.
Once bought: Pineapples don’t continue to get sweeter, but they will get softer and juicier the longer they hang out on your counter.
Overly ripe? Whip the fruit into delicious muffins, or for a healthier option, grill the fruit in slices and serve with a dollop of yoghurt — both the colour and texture of overly ripe pineapples are hidden once they’re cooked.
Looks: Look for tassels that are brown, if they are black or dry, the corn is too old. Avoid any with small, brown holes in the husk, especially towards the top of the vegetable, as these are wormholes.
Touch: Do not pull the outer leaves back, as this will dry out the corn. Instead, feel the kernels through the husk, or squeeze the cob a little. Avoid any with soft spots, as some of the kernels may be missing or overripe.
Smell: Other than a little earthy, ripe corn shouldn’t have a noticeable smell.
Once bought: Put sweet corn immediately in the fridge once it arrives home. Before shucking the corn, microwave for four minutes and cut one end off, it should then slide out of the leaves easily.
Overly ripe? Overripe corn can be used to make cream style corn, which in turn can be used to make delicious corn-fritters.
Looks: There are many different varieties of mangoes, all of which come in different colours. The common types will turn red, orange or yellow once ripened, and the general rule of thumb is to avoid any fruits with bruising or wrinkling of the skin.
Touch: A ripe mango should be firm, but still give a little when softly pressed.
Smell: It should emanate a sweet smell, an aroma that should get even stronger closer to the stem.
Once bought: If you have bought an unripe mango to eat at a later date, keep it at room temperature to ripen it and make it softer and sweet — otherwise, keep it in the fridge.
Overly ripe? Freeze overripe mangoes into smoothies or ice cubes, or puree it to use for summer-ready mango daquiris.
Looks: Watermelons develop a patch where they have been resting on the ground, if the patch is a creamy yellow colour it’s nice and ripe, if it’s white or there is no patch at all, it will be underripe.
Touch: Whether big or small, a watermelon should feel heavy for its size. Rap the underbelly gently with your knuckles, if there’s a deep, hollow sound, the watermelon should be good for the taking, avoid any that give a dull sound.
Smell: A ripe watermelon should smell slightly sweet, if there’s any smell at all — a strong smelling watermelon will be overly ripe.
Once bought: Melons will ripen further and sweeten if left, uncut, out in room temperature. If cut, store in the fridge wrapped in clingfilm with the seeds retained to keep fresh.
Overly ripe? Blend overripe melon to make a base for smoothies, cocktails, or a cool summer’s soup.
Looks: Colour can be misleading, as the softening of the fruit is impartial to the skin’s hue. But in general, when shopping for that night, look for dark green to deep purple skin, for long-term use, go lighter. Pick avocados with the stem intact for less chance of brown streaks inside.
Touch: They should deliver a slight give when pressed. Opt for a firmer one if you’re wanting to keep them for a while before eating.
Smell: Avocados only develop a scent when they are past it, pick ones that have no smell.
Once bought: If you’ve bought unripe avocados and want them to ripen quickly, leave them out in a warm area. Otherwise, store it in the fridge. Once sliced open, keep the pit intact or rub with lemon juice to prevent browning.
Overly ripe? Browned avocados create great brownies, or can be whipped into a smoothie.
Looks: Strawberries should be without bruising and uniformly red. If the tip is a white or greenish colour, the strawberry was picked prematurely and it will taste tart.
Touch: If in a plastic punnet, shake gently before buying. If they don’t move freely within the box there will be overripe or rotten berries inside.
Smell: Ripe strawberries smell deliciously sweet, without any hints of mould or fermentation.
Once bought: To keep them fresher for longer, store in the fridge in an open container lined with paper towels, (to soak up the excess moisture) don’t wash until you’re ready to eat them and remove any mouldy berries immediately before they ruin the rest of the bunch.
Overly ripe? Adding additional sweetness or tartness when cooking replaces the flavours that are lost when they become overripe. Cook them into a sauce, a jam, or into cakes and treats.
Looks: Avoid bulbs that have soft spots, brown spots, any bruising or emerging sprouts — these will be overripe. The outer layer should be void of any moisture.
Touch: Onions should be firm to the touch with dry, papery skins. They should also be quite heavy for their size.
Smell: Avoid onions that have any sort of smell to them, they may be bruised or overly ripe.
Once Bought: Store your onions in a cool dry spot that’s out of the way of the sun. To prevent tears while chopping, try slicing onions under running water or chill them for an hour before cutting into. Once used, wrap the remainder of the onion in plastic wrap or place in a sealed container and refrigerate.
Overly Ripe? Remove the overly ripe, slimy, part of the onion to use the rest — bacteria only affects a section at a time rather than the entire bulb.