Picking best fresh produce about more than checking price

Tania Bazaldua

Next time you set foot into your local grocery store, you may want to use more than just your common sense to pick produce.

“When picking fruits and vegetables, you need to use all your senses,” said Gus Kundanis, a Trader Joe’s store manager. “If it looks good or has a hint of smell that makes you want to taste it, you’ll know it’s a good pick.”

Here are some helpful tips to help you pick the créme de la créme of produce the next time you fill your cart.

Go bananas

A fruit well-known for the potassium it carries might be easier than others to spot when it’s no good, Kundanis said.

“You want to look for a nice, even yellow color and make sure it doesn’t have dense, dark marks on the body,” he said. “You don’t want any defects or dents on it.”

When picking a ripe banana, it’s important to focus on the color and weight, he said. If you want them around for a while, then pick a batch with more hues of green on it.

“You want to pick the ones with a little green on the top if you want them to last longer,” said Xavier Sanchez, a store manager at Guadalajara Foods.

You say tomato, I say tomat-oh-no

“You want to look for a deep, red color with firm flesh. You want one that doesn’t sink when you touch it,” Kundanis said.

Often used as a vegetable when cooking, tomatoes are healthy for the heart because of the lycopene they carry, he said.

“If it doesn’t have a strong scent, then it won’t have a strong flavor. Color, density and smell are very important,” Kundanis said.

“You definitely want to stay away from the orange ones unless you want to save them for a little later,” Sanchez said.

An apple a day ...

“Apples are great for vitamin C and come in a variety of kinds,” Kundanis said. “If you want a sweet, lighter meat and a clean, almost watery finish, you want the red apples. If you want a more sour tart flavor, crispier and with a denser meat to it, you want the green granny smith apples.

“If you want to prevent them from browning, you want to wash them with cold water and spray lemon juice on them,” he said. “Also, organic apples will have a better flavor and are healthier."

“When apples age, they dull up. You want to pick the ones that have a shinier finish,” Sanchez said.

A favorite fatty fruit

Avocado is well-known because of the finished product of a delicious dip we use with tortilla chips, but its downfall is that it’s high in fat.

Fortunately for avocado lovers, Kundanis said, it is a good kind of fat that is needed in diets because it lowers cholesterol levels.

“To pick good avocados, they need to have a soft feel, but (they should) not be mushy — ones that won’t compress under pressure,” Kundanis said. “A good rule of thumb is if you touch the stem area and it’s soft, most likely it’s ready and ripe.”

Once avocados ripen, they can bruise easily. The blacker they are, the more ripe they are, Kundanis said.

“They need to have the same firmness all around — not just on one spot,” Kundanis said. “If you want to retard the ripening, just put it in a brown paper bag along with an apple and put it in the refrigerator,” he added. “Outside room temperature and sunlight help ripen them quicker.”

What’s up, Doc?

“To find fresh carrots, look for a deep orange color. They’re meant to be very crisp and very firm,” Kundanis said. “Try breaking it in the bag, if you hear the crack, then you know it’s good.”

“Make sure they don’t have a slimy coating, because that means they’re bad,” Sanchez said. “Fresh carrots have an orange color with no spots of brown on them.”

Suburban Life