Fresh fruits make summertime berry, berry delicious — but they’ve got to be mouthwateringly ripe. Otherwise it’s pure buzzkill.
But how can you tell when your favorite produce is ready to eat? Use your eyes — and your nose, produce pros advise. The following tips lead to the ripe stuff.
Plump ruby red berries will be scrumptious toppers for shortcake. But looks can be deceiving and they may be pale and flavorless on the inside. That’s because strawberries redden but don’t ripen once picked. “So use your nose,” says Margaret Hoffman, regional coordinator Northern Manhattan Greenmarket. “Ripe strawberries give off a sweet and distinctive aroma that’s unmistakable and all their own.” Always look at the bottom of the carton to make sure there are no moldy berries lurking there.
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These versatile summer all-stars are at their best when they’re plump, firm, and a uniform dark blue color, according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac.
They’re the stars of summer and picnics, and typically have a white or pale green spot on the outside where the fruit rested on the ground. When the melon’s ripe, that part of the rind turns a buttery yellow color. To help ensure ripeness, knock gently on the melon with your knuckles. You’ll hear “a hollow sound when thumped,” says the Old Farmer’s Almanac.
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Cantaloupes and honeydews
These summer melons are go-to snacks and salad ingredients. Each will feel heavier in your hand than you’d expect when ripe, says Hoffman. Other telltale signs they’re ready to eat: the stem end will smell musky and sweet, and you should be able to press your thumb in slightly on the bottom end.
Vine-ripened tomatoes are one of the great glories of summer. A red color and an earthy, garden-y scent are two tip-offs to ripeness. Ripe tomatoes feel firm, but not “like a rock” and should “feel heavy for their size in your hand,” says Katie Ross, marketing and communications manager at Fishkill Farms in Dutchess County, New York.
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Peaches, plums, nectarines
Don’t squeeze the Charmin, but go ahead and give these stone fruits — that’s the official name for these summer delights — a gentle press with your hand. When they’re ripe, plums, peaches, and nectarines will yield slightly, says Ross. Look for richly colored plums with no brown spots.