Even though fresh vegetables are all very different and age in very diverse ways, picking them when they’re at their prime doesn’t have to be as hard as it looks. With careful inspection, and our list at hand, you’ll be able to choose the freshest ingredients to make delicious recipes and always enjoy healthy snacks with your family. Keep reading to find out how to select all types of vegetables from the supermarket’s fresh produce sections.
Since tomatoes have a very high concentration of water, it’s important that you know how to pick them. Look for tomatoes that are bright red, plump and that have very smooth skin. Avoid any tomato that has some type of scraping, bruising or cut in the skin or surface. In the fresh produce section when tomatoes still have their leaves attached to the stem, check that they look green and fresh. You could pick a tomato if it’s squishy instead of firm, but only if you’re going to use it immediately. The size and shape of a tomato don’t really determine its freshness, but it’s more likely your tomato will taste better if you go for medium-sized and regular-shaped ones.
A fresh squash should feel heavy because the flesh is still filled with water, but the stem however must be dry, yet firm. The surface of the squash should look dull and the color must be even, with no green spots. As with any other vegetable, stay away from those with cuts and cracking. Medium to large squashes are better fresh produce because they have more flesh or pulp inside.
When you pick a fresh stem of broccoli it should last a good 10 days in your fridge without going bad. The signs of a fresh broccoli are a deep or bright green color with no yellowing or brownish coloring in the bush, and when it comes to the buds of the bush the smaller the better. The stalk of the broccoli must be firm and look a little moist. Check the bottom part of the stem for any decoloring or dark spots, as it should be light green but even colored. When broccoli is at its prime, the head must feel heavy due to the water it contains, and the florets must be tightly joined.
Related: How to Select Fresh Vegetables – Part 1
Celery is an ingredient that can be used both raw and cooked in many recipes. To identify the freshest celery in the store, look for thick stalks with medium-sized ribs (or stems). They should have the ideal girth to be torn apart easily, without the use of a knife. The leaves of a celery (if it still has leaves) should look bright green and super moist. The less white color a celery has, the more ready it is to eat.
Fresh green beans are a bright green color and their surface is dull and even, with a velvety texture. Even though you can’t (or you shouldn’t) snap the beans in the store before buying them, you can do a little test squeezing and bending them. If beans bend easily without breaking, it means they’re starting to get ripe, they should also feel “full” instead of empty or hollow. As an extra tip, try to pick medium sized beans and make sure they’re all the same size so they all cook at the same time.
A fresh cabbage must show a pretty compact or tight head with no or few loose leaves, and it must feel heavy when you lift it. In appearance, a cabbage should look bright green, crisp and overall fresh. The leaves of a fresh cabbage are very thin yet resistant. If the cabbage has a tiny stem, it should be firm and white.
Related: How to Select Fresh and Ripe Fruit – Part 1
Carrots are pretty easy to recognize when they’re either fresh, immature or ripe. A fresh carrot is firm and with smooth skin. It must be a deep orange color with no black spots or stains at sight. A weak-looking orange carrot is still not mature. Even though carrots must look dry on the outside, a sign of a carrot that still has moisture inside is that it doesn’t bend when squishing it. When you see a carrot with a hint of the root at the bottom stay clear of it, this forking might be caused by soil insects during its growth.
Even though spinach is not as fragile as lettuce or other leafy vegetables, you still have to be careful to pick them correctly. Fresh spinach looks a dark green color and shows crisp leaves. Naturally, yellowing or brownish leaves are a bad sign. The leaves of a spinach must crunch when you squeeze them, and you should look for them in a refrigerated area because they tend to deteriorate quickly. The stems of the spinach must be exactly the same green tone and feel firm yet moist.
Fresh corn tends to have a sweet and hearty flavor, and when it’s past its prime it can turn your meals into a disaster. To identify fresh corn in the fresh produce section, you must start with the leaves, or husk. This husk must be a bright green color and be tightly shut around the cob. Inside, the cob must show bright yellow or slightly white teeth that look juicy, shiny and meaty. The rows of a fresh and healthy corn are always neatly arranged in rows. Give the corn a little squeeze and it should feel tight but not rock hard. Big and thick corn is the best to choose, while small cobs are probably not mature (and they never will since they were picked too early).
Related: How to Select Fresh and Ripe Fruit – Part 2
Fresh mushrooms must be firm yet squishy and feel smooth to the touch. When you touch the mushrooms, they must be dry but not dried out, they should feel like they’re still moist on the inside. As for the color, this can vary greatly but they should never be bruised or with noticeable black spots. Fresh mushrooms tend to go from white to dark brown. In fresh vegetables any size of mushroom is acceptable but try to pick the ones with most even shapes.
To pick the freshest cucumbers in the store, look for those that are firm and a bright green color. When a cucumber is starting to get ripe, they start showing yellow spots. A fresh cucumber is smooth looking and shows no wrinkles or texture, this is a clear sign that moisture from the inside is gone. As for the size? The bigger the better, and of course pick cucumbers that stand straight or with very little curvature, but when you try to bend them, they must give in a little. Flexibility is a sign of a cucumber that still has good levels of water inside.
A meaty and hearty vegetable that makes up for some of the most delicious meals, sweet potatoes must be picked fresh to taste good. Pick medium-sized sweet potatoes with oval shapes that show firm and smooth skin with no blemishes or holes. In appearance, a fresh sweet potato must be deep-colored. If you opt for a larger sweet potato that’s no guarantee that you’ll enjoy a bigger amount of it, instead you’ll get a starchier version of this vegetable. As with regular potatoes, stay clear of those that have sprouts, since you won’t be able to use them in a few days.
Now that you know how to pick the freshest vegetables of all kind, it will only take you a few seconds to find the perfect fresh vegetables in the fresh produce part of a store. Follow our tips closely and take home only the best ingredients for your meals, recipes and even to enjoy them fresh.