A Guide for 15 Common Fruits
For something that seems so simple, buying fruit can be deceivingly complex. That's why if you look closely at most any grocery store produce section you'll notice people squeezing, sniffing and examining their fruit very carefully.
When it comes to picking ripe fruit, choosing one that's heavy for its size is often a better indicator of ripeness than color.
Depending on whom you ask, a watermelon is "ready" when you knock on it and it sounds hollow. Others swear it's only worth buying if it makes a thumping sound. Likewise for cantaloupes. Should a ripe one be soft? Smell sweet? Have no green patches?
Finally, we have compiled a comprehensive ripeness guide for some of the most common fruits, so you never have to come home with a bland pear or sour strawberry ever again!
Oranges: When looking for a ripe orange, don't worry about color. Oranges with green or brown patches can be just as ripe (and some very orange oranges are even injected with food coloring to get that bright color). For the best flavor, look for a firm, heavy orange with a thin, smooth skin.
Watermelon: How do you find the sweetest watermelon when opting for a whole melon (with cut pieces, look for deeply colored flesh)? Choose a firm, heavy watermelon with a smooth skin -- and be sure it has a well-defined yellow area on one side. This is the spot where the watermelon has been resting while ripening, and if it's not there it means it may have been harvested too soon.
Grapefruits: Like oranges, don't judge a grapefruit by its color. Instead, look for heavy, thin-skinned fruits that are firm but slightly springy when pressed. Avoid those with thick, rough skins or overly soft spots.
Cantaloupe: Be choosy when picking a cantaloupe because they're often picked while still unripe so they're not damaged during shipping. You can spot an unripe cantaloupe by its green tones. Instead, look for a cream-colored cantaloupe (with no green patches) that has a slightly soft end (the end opposite the stem). Also, give it a sniff and choose one that smells slightly sweet (but not overly so, which could mean it's too ripe).
Apples: A ripe apple will be firm and deeply colored. Depending on the variety, there should also be a slight rosy tone (such as with yellow and green apples). If you want to find apples with the best flavor, buy them during apple season, which spans from late summer to early winter.
Strawberries: Strawberries are ripe when they're a deep red color with a shiny skin. Avoid buying any with green or yellow patches, as they're unripe (and won't ripen any further). Also stay away from very large strawberries. Though they look tempting, their flavor is often inferior to smaller berries.
Pears: Most pears in the supermarket are not yet ripe, so choose those that are firm (but not extremely hard) and free from dark soft spots (brown speckles, though, are OK and may signify a better flavor). Once you get the pears home, leave them on the counter to ripen for a few days (or put them in a paper bag to speed things up).
Pineapple: Like strawberries, pineapples don't continue to ripen once they're picked. You can find a ripe pineapple by choosing one that's heavy for its size and has a sweet smell (particularly near the stem). Avoid those that have soft spots or dark patches.
Grapes: Ripe grapes are firm and smooth and should still be attached to the stem. Green grapes with a yellowish cast will be sweeter, as will deeply colored red and purple grapes.
Bananas: Ripe bananas are, of course, yellow, but it's OK to buy them while they're still green if you don't plan on eating them for a few days. What many people do not know is that you can actually refrigerate ripe bananas to extend their freshness (the peel will darken, but the flesh won't be affected). Do not put unripe (green) bananas in the refrigerator, though -- this will interrupt the ripening process.
Kiwi: A kiwi is ripe when it gives slightly when pressed. Those that are too hard will not be sweet, while those that are too soft or shriveled are spoiled.
Papaya: Papayas with a red-orange skin are ripe and ready to eat. Those with yellow patches are still fine, but will take a few days to ripen. Avoid papayas that are green or very hard, as they're not fully ripe and won't have a sweet flavor.
Plums: The best plums are those that yield slightly to pressure and have a deep color and semi-soft tip. Plums that feel firm will ripen in a few days, but avoid those that are rock-hard, as they may have been harvested too soon to fully ripen.
Blueberries: Look for blueberries that are firm, dry and brightly colored. Pass up those that are watery, moist or dull in color.
Mangoes: Finding a ripe mango can be tricky because they can be yellow, red, green or orange in color. Those that are ready to eat will usually have a yellow hue and should be slightly soft to the touch. Ripe mangoes also have a sweet aroma near the stem end.