Around here, we take our food very seriously. So we (okay, I) literally get excited when summer fruit season starts. There’s nothing like biting into a perfectly ripe and juicy piece of summer-sweet fruit.
If you’re anything like me and passionate about peaches or get silly for strawberries, that first taste is like summertime on your plate.
Which means it’s a huge letdown when you take that bite only to discover your favorite fruit isn’t quite ripe. From bland and mealy to dry and tasteless, an under-ripe fruit can ruin your mood.
But you don’t have to end up disappointed. These easy to remember tricks will help you pick out the ripest sweetest fruit, every single time.
Fruit picking 101: Start with the basics
You can’t judge some fruits ripeness just by looking at them. But, for the most part, the appearance of a fruit on the outside is going to be important.
Look for bright, rich colors that have moved beyond the pale stage. Skins and rinds should be intact. Any breaks or splits in the skin could mean they’ve passed peak ripeness.
Lightly squeezing fruit is often a first good step. Make sure there’s a bit of a give to the fruit. But it shouldn’t be too soft. A squishy fruit is usually over-ripe.
Advanced fruit picking tips for the tastiest fruit
Now that you’ve mastered the basics, it’s time for some advanced fruit picking tricks.
Strawberries are one of the most popular summer fruits. But the trouble is they always seem to look ripe, so it’s hard to tell when they actually are.
It turns out the trick is to follow your nose. (And ignore any funny looks you get while doing it.)
Give them a sniff. Strawberries will taste just like they smell. If they have no smell, or mild scent, they’ll have no or mild flavor. A robust scent means a robust taste.
Other summer berries:
Blackberries, blueberries and raspberries all have a milder scent than strawberries. But the sniff test is still the best first step. If you don’t smell anything at all, they’re not quite ripe yet.
But don’t stop there. Also, take a good look at the shape and size of the berries. Blackberries, blueberries and raspberries should be large, plump and firm enough to hold their shape. Check the bottom of the container too. Any leaking or oozing could mean some of them are past their prime.
Peaches and nectarines:
Start with the triple check for peaches and nectarines. Rich color, springy softness and a bright fruity smell are all key when it comes to picking the best stone fruits.
Next, look for sugar spots. These darker marks on the skin might look a little like bruises at first glance. But they’re actually a sign you’ve picked a good fruit.
Sugar spots appear when the fruit sugar has settled into the flesh. And when you spot them, you know your peach or nectarine is perfectly ripe and delicious.
With peaches, also look for a lighter colored stripe running across the top of the fruit as well. This is a sign the peach was allowed to ripen on the tree long enough for it to get good and plump.
There are a few tricks to making sure your cantaloupe is perfectly sweet and ready to eat.
Take a close look at the rind of the melon. The color peeking through the brownish netting should look more orange than green. And the bumpy netting itself should have smoothed out a bit and not be as raised.
Sniff the cantaloupe. You’re looking for a sweet, but not cloying, scent. Next press gently on the end opposite of the stem. When it’s ripe, it should give slightly. If it has no smell and its end is hard, leave it behind.
Look for a deeper green color rind on your melon. Then flip it over and look at its ground spot. This is where the melon rested on the ground as it grew. It should be a creamy yellow. If it’s white, the melon isn’t ready to eat.
If the stem is still attached it should be brown and withered, a sign of a more mature fruit. And a ripe watermelon will generally feel heavy for its size.
Now thump it. If it sounds like you’re tapping on your forehead, it’s still not ripe. If it sounds like you’re thumping your belly, it may be past its prime. What you’re looking for is a hollow sound as if you’re gently hitting your chest. If you hear this take it home, it’s ripe.
One last fruit picking tip
Some fruits will ripen on your kitchen counter. So if you aren’t planning to use them right away it’s fine to take them home when they aren’t quite ripe. Others won’t ripen at all after picking.
Fruits that will ripen include….
Fruits that won’t ripen include…
- most citrus fruit
- most berries
As we head into fruit season, make sure you bring home the ripest sweetest fruits EVERY time using these simple fruit picking tricks.