When you are in the supermarket buying fresh produce, you want to choose between either ripe or pre-ripe produce. There are a few specs to consider when you're selecting produce, some that may seem obvious, and others that you may have never thought of. A quick tip: Save your produce picking for the end of your grocery shopping so that you can leisurely sort through your fruits and vegetables and minimize the time that the items sit out in your shopping cart.
A ripe, delicious melon will smell sweet (except for watermelons). It will also give you a deep, low sound when tapped with your knuckles (the palm of your hand for watermelons). Finally, consider the color of the melon. A cantaloupe will be orange, a honeydew pale, and a watermelon dark green when ripe. Avoid melons that are very soft to the touch.
Oranges and Tangerines
You know an orange is good when you smell a clean, fresh orange scent on the skin. Tangerines smell sweet. Both will be firm when ripe. Oranges and tangerines that are extremely soft and brown in some spots have gone bad.
Peaches and Plums
A good peach will be smooth to the touch. You should also be able to press it lightly with your thumb. A really hard peach is not yet ripe. You can also smell sweetness on a ripe peach.
The more tender the better when it comes to a plum, if you want it to be sweet and ripe. Look for the deepest red plums you can find.
When you buy a bunch of bananas they should be green (not yet ripe) or completely yellow (ripe). Never buy a brown banana.
Apples and Pears
Since apples come in a variety of colors, your best indication of a fresh apple is a tough, firm skin (you should not be able to put your thumb easily into the fruit). When apples show bruising they are going bad. The firmness in combination with the richness of the color (golden yellow, deep green or bright red) will tell you that you have a fresh fruit.
Pears are similar to apples, only there are some versions, such as Bosc pears, that are ripe and delicious when soft.
Strawberries and Cherries
You have to use the smell test to determine if a strawberry or cherry is good, as sometimes even the deepest reds can be bitter. A fresh cherry or berry will smell sweet---you can clearly smell the juice. Examine these fruits with your fingers to ensure that the skin isn't soft but yet not extremely hard (that could indicate bitterness).
When purchasing broccoli, just look for a very dark green head and firm stalks.
The best carrots are deep orange---avoid buying ones that are orange-yellow. The deeper the orange, the sweeter the carrot.
When not yet ripe, cucumbers are a lighter green color and soft. Only purchase the darkest green cucumbers that you can find.
Pick avocados that have rough, dark skin. Like apples, you should not be able to press your thumb completely into the skin easily.
When shopping for onions, whether they are green or white, just run your fingers over the surface to check for soft spots. A good onion will be completely firm all around.
Potatoes and Tomatoes
Look for bruise-free, hard potatoes. At the first sign of softness, or sprouting green stems, you know the potato is spoiling.
You can tell a good tomato by the bright, deep red color and firmness. Sniff a tomato to see if it is fresh. If so, it will have a clean, pleasant scent.