Are you someone who knows their produce well? Even so, picking out vegetables or fruits in the market in this day and age isn’t as easy as it was a generation ago. A lot of new issues with modern produce are being highlighted.
Remember the Malayalam film How Old Are You? and its Tamil remake 36 Vayadhiniley? Much of what the script said about the produce we purchase from the market today is true. It’s scary to think that vegetables are dyed or dipped into mud to be passed off as organic. And then there’s the whole pesticide scare. Many people are familiar with the Dirty Dozen– the fruits and veggies you’re better off buying organic – most of which are consumed with the skin like apples or strawberries. But with waxed apples and plastic cabbage, what choice do we have?
The other issue? Many fruits and vegetables like avocado and kale have become popular because of their health benefits. You may have heard about their goodness but may not be sure how to pick the good from the bad because they're still new to the market. Add to that the weather in South India which is humid in most regions for a good portion of the year, it’s almost impossible for produce to look so startlingly fresh as they do in the market these days.
Wouldn't it be wonderful to just know which avocados to pick or which tomatoes are ripe? Sadly, while the latter is mostly obvious, the former is a bit of a mystery even to seasoned shoppers. But here’s your handy little A-Z guide for picking up the best produce at a glance, whiff or touch.
Avocado: Choose avocados that are brown in colour, tender to touch with no cracks or spots. You can also remove the pit. If the colour is yellow, it’s perfect for consumption. Remember dark green avocados can also be bought and left to ripen in room temperature at home.
Broccoli: Firm stalks, dark green, tight florets and crisp leaves are what you’re looking for. Do not pick ones with yellowing or flowering florets.
Corn: Bright green husk, clean and moist silk, with plump kernels that aren’t dry are perfect.
Dates: Should be wrinkled but not hard. Plump and glossy looing dates are also the sweetest.
Eggplant (the bharta variety): Choose ones that are naturally shiny, heavy for their size and spring when gently pressed.
Fenugreek (methi): Bright green leaves that don’t have wilting rootlets are best for consumption. Baby fenugreek varieties can be consumed with the roots.
Garlic: Firm plump heads without greening spots indicate fresh bulbs.
Honeydew (melon): Bright exteriors, uniform skin and unwrinkled appearance without looking dull.
Iceberg Lettuce: Fresh exterior leaves with darker inner leaves. There should be no yellowing on the edges of the leaves.
Jamun: Smooth, shiny skin with a bit of dark spots indicate the sweetest fruit. The spots are where the sugar has collected.
Kale: Crisp leaves are important. Choose rich coloured leaves which are small and tender. Bigger leaves may start yellowing soon.
Lauki (bottle gourd): Firm and smooth without pits or cracks with an even colour are fit for immediate consumption.
Mushroom: Take care when picking mushrooms as they tend to spoil quickly; Pick bruise-free and blemish-free ones. Slimy and wrinkly ones should be avoided at all costs.
Nuts: Go fresh! Nuts can be stored for a while and they are great for everyday health since they contain important omega 3 fatty acids.
Okra: Glossy green and tender ones with tips that break off with a snap are fresh. Tips that don’t break and those that look dark and withered aren’t.
Peas: Full, plump pods which are bursting with peas are the best. Even though the whitish yellow ones appear very full, the peas within might be overripe.
Radish: Fresh green tops, unblemished roots and sprightly appearance indicate the health of the vegetable.
Spring Onions: Bright fresh green leaves and white bulbs with no blemishes. Avoid the ones with dropping top ends. Or cut them off before consumption.
Tomatoes: Rich, brightly coloured, firm to touch and with a good smell are all indications of fresh and yummy tomatoes.
Watermelon: Find one that has a brown spot and a wilted stem. This indicates that the fruit was allowed to mature on the vine. And is sure to be sweeter. In general the darker the fruit, the sweeter it is. But do not compare different varieties of watermelon with each other using this test.
Yam: Firm and smooth on the outside with an unwrinkled, yellowish creamy looking interior.
Zucchini: Clean unbruised exterior with a bright natural shiny colour.