Few things erk me more than going grocery shopping and picking up what appears to be the most ripe and delicious summer produce and then coming home to discover that it has already gone bad! In order to save you a few bucks and a disappointing first bite we've teamed up with a few local farmers to help guide you through the dos and don'ts of picking seasonal produce like a pro, because friends don't let friends buy bad produce.
Below, find our guide to for choosing the most popular summer fruits and vegetables - to make sure your healthy choices end up in your stomach and not in the trash.
Avocados: You can get these all year around, but their peak season is RIGHT NOW, so enjoy the bounty with copious amounts of avocado toast and guacamole. A perfect avocado will have a slight give when pressed, but it should still be firm. A darker, deeper color typically means a riper fruit, but if the skin starts to look too dry, or has deep indentations it is probably past its prime. Avocados are one fruit that does ripen off the vine, so if you're planning on using an avocado a few days after you buy it, we suggest buying a firmer one and then letting it ripen over the next few days. If you do pick a ready to eat avocado and can't use it that day, put it in the refrigerator and it will help maintain that ripeness for at least one more day!
Blueberries: They are the only fruit that has a white-ish, matte finish on it when it's ripe, it's called "the bloom." Pick berries that have a dark grey-blue hue and are firm to the touch. Red/purple berries aren't quite ripe enough, but will ripen over time if you're patient but If your blueberries are wrinkly.. I'm sad to say they've passed their prime.
Bell Peppers: Did you know that the longer a bell pepper is left on the vine, the sweeter it becomes? While most peppers cycle through various color stages (from green to red) they carry with them different flavor profiles. Red, yellow and orange bell peppers will have a slightly sweeter taste than the bitter green ones. When picking peppers (where's Peter Piper when you need him?) look for firm, shiny and it should be a decent size.
Cherries: Being from Michigan, summer cherry season is like a second Christmas and bad cherries can literally ruin your entire beach day, so I asked one of my best friends (who's dad happens to own one of Leelanau's most popular commercial cherry farms) how to tell when a cherry is at it's prime and the answer surprised me. Forget about the color of the skin, look at the color of the stem! Bright green stems are often a sign of a perfectly ripened cherry, whereas a dull, brown or wrinkled stem indicates that it's been sitting around too long. Again, firm and plump seems to be the golden rule of thumb when selecting summer goodies and it definitely applies to these heavenly treats.
Corn: Tight green husks, healthy looking hairy things (meaning yellow or brown and flow-y, if they are black and dry, just walk away) and a firm kernel are all sure signs that you're making a good selection. Organic, fresh picked corn may have a worm or two in the bunch, but don't be alarmed, just wash it off and the rest of the cob is perfectly fine to eat.
Cucumbers: Seriously one of my summer obsessions thanks to their hydrating, cooling and just plain delicious properties. A deep green color, slightly waxy skin and a firm hand mean your cucumber is ready to eat. Once the cucumber gets too mushy you start to lose that crunch that makes eating raw cukes so enjoyable. Plus if you try to pickle mushy cucumbers, you'll cry because it will be terrible. We also recommend picking cucumbers that aren't too large, medium sized cucumbers have the most flavor. .
Stone Fruits: Peaches, nectarines and even plums should feel heavy for their size and the outer flesh should give just a little bit when you apply gentle pressure. If it's too squishy, it is a sign that the fruit may be over ripened.
Tomatoes: Let's just talk about the red ones for now, instead of squeezing them to determine ripeness, just looking for a nice even color across the entire fruit. Big, Bold and Beautiful are all great indicators of a winner. We wholeheartedly suggest buying these organic and from your local farmers market, that's your best bet for delicious tomatoes.
Watermelon: The watermelon should be heavy, that indicates how juicy it will be. A deep, almost emerald green color and symmetrical shape are all good signs of a good melon. This picnic-staple can be dressed-up or dressed-down for any occasion. Enjoy it solo, for a cool and refreshing treat, freeze it and then blend it up to create a one-ingredient slushie or add some mint, feta and a pinch of salt for an hor devours that is sure to impress.
Zucchini (& Summer Squash): The larger the zucchini, the waterier it is, which means, the less flavor it will have. We suggest picking a more reasonably sized one.