Choosing and storing fruit

I read somewhere that fruit is the ultimate convenience food - all we have to do is wash it and eat it. How simple is that. Yet so many of us don't eat enough fruit.

Nowadays most fruit is available all year but, as with vegetables it is preferable to eat fruit when it is in season. Most fruit available in our supermarkets has been picked well before its prime to reduce shipping damage and storage loss. Try to buy local, organic fruit wherever possible.

With some fruit you can tell it is ripe by its colour. Green chlorophyll in the fruit breaks down and, as it does, the true colour of the fruit starts to increase. Smell is also important when choosing fruit. In some fruits, chemical changes take place that make the fruit smell absolutely delicious. A good example is the rock melon.

The ripeness of some fruit can be judged by its feel. A very gentle "squeeze' can help you decide if the fruit is ready to eat. Be especially careful when "squeezing" fruit. Remember if you don't buy it then somebody else most probably will later and they don't want fruit that has been damaged by your squeezing. You don't want to incur the wrath of the fruit seller either.


Apples

When buying apples choose firm fruit without any bruises. Certain apples are better for cooking than they are for eating. Granny Smiths are the best cooking apple around this area. Ask your fruiterer if you are not sure which variety to buy. Store them in a cool place away from direct sunlight. If needing to store them for more than a couple of days then place them in a plastic bag in the fridge. The plastic helps retain moistness and stops the apple shrivelling.


Apricots

When buying apricots, always look for firm, plump orange fruit that give slightly when you press with your thumb. Avoid greenish apricots as they are low in carotenes and will never ripen satisfactorily at home. Store in the refrigerator as they have poor keeping qualities.


Bananas

Don't buy bananas that are totally green. Partly green is OK though and they can be ripened at room temperature. If you want to buy ripe fruit then choose those that are yellow with small speckles and streaks of brown. Try to buy bananas that are still attached to the stem as they deteriorate less quickly. They can be stored in the fridge for a couple of days after they ripen. The skin may turn brown but the peeled fruit should still be fine.


Berries and Currants

Strawberries, Raspberries, Blueberries, Blackberries, Gooseberries, Black currants, Red currants and White currants - Look for firm glossy berries and currants. If you are buying them in a clear plastic punnet check out the bottom of the punnet and reject any that have squashed fruit. These fruits do not keep well and should preferably be eaten on the day of purchase.


Cherries

There are two types of cherries - ones best eaten fresh (sweet) and others that are best when cooked (sour). Choose firm bright cherries with fresh looking stems intact. Avoid fruit that is bruised. One bad cherry starts the others deteriorating quickly so only buy in small quantities and keep in plastic bags in the refrigerator.


Citrus Fruits

Oranges, Grapefruit, Lemons and Limes - Look for firm fruit that has smooth skin and is heavy for its size. Their colours should be bright. They are fine to keep at room temperature for a few days but if you need to keep them longer then they need to be refrigerated.


Grapes

Buy grapes that are plump and firm to the touch. They should be quite firmly attached to the stalk. Grapes for eating have thinner skins and are less acidic than grapes grown for wine making. Seedless grapes contain less tannin than fruit with seeds. Store unwashed fruit in the fridge for up to five days.


Mangoes

Mangoes can range in colour from green to yellow, orange and red. When green these fruits are usually used in cooking and even in salads. Ripe fruit should yield to gentle pressure. Avoid those with bruised or dry and shrivelled skin. The ripeness of mangos can also be determined by smelling them. A ripe mango will have a full, fruity smell at the stem end.


Nectarines

Nectarines are very fragile and bruise easily so buy them slightly under ripe and finish the ripening process at home. They smell superb when ripe. When they have ripened store them in the refrigerator.


Melons

Look for melons that feel heavy for their size. The stem end should just yield to light pressure when almost ripe. They smell sweet when ripe. Keep at room temperature or in the sun till fully ripe and then store in the fridge.


Papayas

Papayas are also known as pawpaws. When ripe their green skins change to a speckled yellow. Their stem ends should give slightly to pressure but not be soft.


Peaches

Peaches vary in colour from gold to deep red. They are extremely fragile so take care to choose fruit that are just under ripe and finish the ripening process at home. When ripe store in the refrigerator.


Pears

Choose firm and plump fruit that just give slightly at the stem end. Buy them slightly under ripe but watch them carefully as they can ripen and spoil very quickly. When ripe store them in the refrigerator as they soon become woolly in texture.


Pineapples

Choose pineapples that are slightly soft to the touch. Their leaves should still be intact. They are ripe when they smell fragrant. Store in the fridge when ripe. Cut pineapple freezes well.


Plums

Look for smooth skinned fruit that is not too soft. Better to buy slightly under ripe and finish the ripening process at home. Some varieties of plums are better suited to cooking than eating fresh so check with your fruiterer. To soften hard plums, place several in a loosely closed paper bag and leave them at room temperature for a day or two. Once ripened store in the refrigerator.


Quince

Quinces can be apple shaped or pear shaped. Quinces start off green and turn yellow as they ripen. Look for smooth fruits that aren't too soft and are a lemon yellow colour. They are best bought late in the season when they are larger. They need to ripen on the tree. Quinces are always cooked - not eaten raw. They have a high pectin content so they are good for making quince jelly. For the highest pectin content use the fruit before it gets too ripe. Keep in the refrigerator or in a cool place. They have a lovely perfume that will fill the room.

 

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