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Picking fresh vegetables

Mary Fetzer is a freelance writer and marketing consultant with a marketing degree from Penn State University and 15 years of international business experience. Mary specializes in writing about parenting, children, pregnancy, college, h...

How to tell when veggies are ripe

It is a lot easier to get your family to eat their veggies when they're fresh and ripe.
produce

How to tell when veggies are ripe

It is a lot easier to get your family to eat their veggies when they're fresh and ripe.

Each delicious garden veggie has its own ripeness indicators, but there are some general rules of thumb that apply to most vegetables:

  1. Identify harvest times. Find out when farmers harvest their crops and buy vegetables based on what should be in season.
  2. Seek the aroma. "Use your strong sense of smell first," says nutrition and health expert Jackie Keller, author of Body After Baby. "Fresh fruits and vegetables tend to be very fragrant." A fresh tomato, for example, will smell like a garden.
  3. Look for color. Ripe vegetables display vibrant colors — dark red beets, deep green asparagus and rich purple eggplants are just a few examples. Over-ripe veggies may appear dull or have bruises, blemishes or brown spots.
  4. Feel your way. Peppers should have smooth, not wrinkly, skin. Eggplants should feel firm, not squishy. Broccoli should not feel rubbery when bent and beans should crack crisply.
  5. Take note of shape. Fresh, ripe vegetables are tightly formed — cabbage and lettuce heads form compact balls, stalks of celery form a tight bundle, and asparagus leaves fit snugly on their globe.

Produce: What to buy and what to avoid >>

Armed with that knowledge, look for some of your favorite veggies using these specific ripeness tips:

corn on the cobCorn on the cob

The hairy silk will help you find the tastiest cobs. The silk on the outside of the husk should be brown and dry, while the silk touching the cob should be white and silky. Peel back the husk and press a kernel with your thumb. Look for a milky white — not clear — discharge and cook it up tonight. The sweet sugar flavor will decrease with each passing day.

Recipe: Roasted corn on the cob >>

tomatoTomatoes

Contrary to popular opinion, a tomato does not have to be blood red to be ripe. In fact, the sugars and acid that give a tomato its flavor may decrease if it stays on the vine until completely red. Buy tomatoes when they're orange and just turning red. Don't refrigerate them — that will kill the flavor. Instead, ripen them at room temperature until they are a nice light-red hue.

Recipe: Sun-dried tomato frittata >>

CucumberCucumbers

The rule for picking fresh, crunchy cucumbers is half a rule... or about six inches. At that length, a cucumber should boast a medium- to dark-green color, indicating that peak ripeness has been reached. If you intend to pickle your cucumbers, pick them when they're a bit younger (and about four inches in length).

How to make homemade pickles >>

broccoliBroccoli

It's the floret that we love, and it's the floret that gives us the best indication of whether our broccoli is ready to eat. Look for a flower that's compact, dense and firmly closed. If you bend the floret away from the stem, it should snap crisply. If it bends like rubber, it won't be tasty.

How to get your kids to eat broccoli >>

Read more about fruits and veggies

Beyond the garden
Loving your greens
Picking fresh fruits

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