HOW TO: Getting it ripe — know how and when to pick out the best fresh fruit for your purposes

Everyone has been there before. You were standing in front of the fresh fruit in the grocery store. You’ve squeezed it, you’ve shaken it, and you’ve tapped it—all in an effort to determine whether or not it’s ripe.

But are we doing it right? What is the best way to tell if fruit is ripe, and what do we do when it isn’t?

Thankfully, Ann Marion Willis knows exactly what to do. She is a Registered Nutritionist working at Superstore in Glace Bay, Sydney River and North Sydney.

When asked if it’s okay to eat unripe fruit or if it can cause digestive problems, Willis said it depends on the fruit. Some unripe fruit just don’t taste appealing or have a less than ideal texture, but some can cause intestinal distress depending on sensitivity or the amount eaten.

Remember, a little green on your banana is okay for most people, she noted.

Most fruits have specific tips that can include changes in smell, color, or texture to indicate ripeness, Willis explained. Some fruits continue to ripen after harvest, such as bananas, pears, apples, and melons. Others stop ripening by the time of harvest, including berries, grapes, and pineapples.

Some of Willis’ top tips for checking maturity for common favorites include:

• Avocado: press gently on the skin. You should feel a slight yield of a ready-to-eat product. You can also remove the stem. If the exposed area is light green, it’s ripe.

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• Figs: These don’t ripen after picking, so choose one that’s soft but not mushy. Be careful when testing.

• Honeydew: This should feel firm and heavy, and feel firm when shaken. There should be no odor present. Where the stem was attached should be only slightly soft.

• Mango: Choose firm, smooth, unblemished fruit that will yield to gentle pressure.

Pineapple: Use your nose! This is a fruit that should have a strong, sweet smell at the base. Avoid soft spots and look for fresh, green leaves.

Ann Marion Willis, the nutritionist at the supermarket in Glace Bay, Sydney River and North Sydney, strongly recommends asking the professionals in the fruit and vegetable department for help when choosing ripe fruit.  Contributed Photo - Contributed Photo
Ann Marion Willis, the nutritionist at the supermarket in Glace Bay, Sydney River and North Sydney, strongly recommends asking the professionals in the fruit and vegetable department for help when choosing ripe fruit. Contributed Photo – Contributed Photo

If you buy a fruit that isn’t quite ripe, you can help it ripen, but that depends on the exact fruit. Keep in mind that not all fruit ripens after picking either, so you’ll want to make sure you pick those right at the store, Willis suggested.

When it comes to buying fresh fruit at all, Willis can’t recommend enough the idea of ​​speaking to fellow produce workers in your produce department. They have a wealth of knowledge when it comes to choosing, storing and even using your products.

“I’ve gotten so many valuable tips and tricks from these people over the years, and they’re always my first port of call for questions,” Willis said.

But for the fruit that ripens after it’s picked, there are a few things that will help them do it.

First, the vegetable drawers in your fridge actually have a purpose, Willis said. The fruit and vegetable sides allow for high or low humidity levels to prevent produce from ripening too quickly or rotting. Most produce should be stored in the refrigerator, although you may want to first age some items on the counter before placing them in the refrigerator.

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Berries are among the fruits that do not ripen after harvest.  Shelley Paul's Photo/Unsplash - Shelley Paul's Photo/Unsplash
Berries are among the fruits that do not ripen after harvest. Shelley Paul’s Photo/Unsplash – Shelley Paul’s Photo/Unsplash

Some fruits, such as apples, tomatoes, and bananas, give off ethylene gas that can ripen or rot other produce faster than usual. You might want to keep them separate from more fragile products, she suggested.

If you want to ripen fruit faster, put it in a paper bag in the fridge or on the counter, Willis explained. Because there are variables that can affect how long this process takes, check once or twice a day to see if it’s ready to eat.

Add an apple or banana to speed things up even more, she recommended. Avoid using plastic bags or airtight containers for this, as they can trap moisture and lead to mold.

Missed your maturity window? Fear not, Willis has a few ideas for overripe fruit to avoid wasting food.

First, make sure there is no mold and discard it if there is any. Next, decide if you want to use this in a fresh item, a baked good, or freeze for later. Wash, dry if using for baking or freezing, then cut as desired. Smoothies, oatmeal, chia pudding, chips and cobblers, and muffins are great options for overripe fruit, Willis said.

For fresh or non-heated uses like in chia pudding, consume as soon as possible as the fruit continues to spoil quickly, she added

“I’m definitely a big fan of chia jam and chia pudding, especially when it comes to my overripe berries at the end of the season. I use it on toast, stirred into yogurt or oatmeal, even in jam cookies,” Willis said.

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