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14 Summer produce tips: How to pick it and how to keep it fresh

Summer is finally here, and with it comes the best produce of the year.

But picking the best fruits and veggies from the market and keeping them fresh for long enough before you eat them can be challenging. Luckily this guide will help you pick produce at its peak and keep it tasting fresh until you’re ready to enjoy.

1. Avocados

Most people check for an avocado’s ripeness by pressing it with a finger, but there’s an easier way and one that won’t bruise the fruit. At the tip of the avocado, there should be a small stem or cap. Pull it off. If it’s green underneath, it’s ripe. If it’s brown, it’s overripe, and if it is yellow or doesn’t come off at all, it’s underripe.

2. Pineapples

There are a few ways to ensure you’re buying a ripe pineapple. For one, it should be fragrant — if it has no scent, it’s underripe, and if it smells fermented or vinegary, it’s overripe. The leaves should be green, and the skin should be relatively smooth and free of cracks and blemishes.

3. Melons

Melon rinds should be dull, not shiny. They should feel heavy for their size and sound hollow when tapped. And some melons, like cantaloupe, honey and French melons, should be fragrant when ripe.

4. Fresh herbs

Not all fresh herbs should be stored alike! Hardy herbs, like thyme and rosemary, should be washed, dried, rolled up in a slightly damp paper towel and stored in a zip-top bag in the refrigerator. Tender herbs, like parsley, cilantro and mint, should be stored upright in a couple of inches of water in a jar or vase in the fridge and covered with a plastic bag. One exception is basil — this delicate herb should be stored upright in a vase or jar of water at room temperature.

5. Bananas

A perfectly yellow banana is not, in fact, a ripe one. Bananas don’t reach their peak until they’re covered with at least a few brown spots. Once they’ve reached the sweet spot, help them last longer by separating each one from the bunch and covering the stem ends in plastic wrap.

6. Tomatoes

Though common wisdom has it that tomatoes shouldn’t be stored in the fridge, it’s a little more complicated than that. If you have super-fresh tomatoes that you’re eating within a day, leave them out. But if you hope to have them longer than that, refrigeration is your best bet. The generally hot temperature of a kitchen in the summer will actually cause the quality of your tomatoes to degrade more quickly, and refrigeration will help them stay fresh. Don’t believe it? See the evidence here.

7. Corn

The first rule for getting the best summer corn? Pick it up in the morning, before the heat has a chance to convert its sugars into starch. To find the best ears, make sure to peel back the husk from the tip of the cob. The kernels up top should be plump and juicy, and the silk should be pale, not brown and withered. The base of the corncob should also be light yellow, not brown — the browner it is, the older it is.

8. Cucumbers

Cucumbers seem so fresh and delicate you’d think they need to be stored in the fridge, but the opposite is true! The cold temperature of the refrigerator actually degrades the texture of cucumbers, leaving them watery and unappetizing. Store them at room temperature, away from other produce, for best results.

9. Eggplants

Eggplants may seem sturdy, what with their thick skin, but they can actually be kind of finicky. Keep eggplants in a ventilated container at room temperature, away from sunlight. Another tip? Use them right away. The bitterness some associate with eggplant develops over time, so for the freshest flavor, you should eat them as soon as possible.

10. Zucchini

Are there any summer vegetables more seemingly abundant than zucchini and summer squash? For the best, look for squash with smooth, shiny skin, a moist stem end and those that are small to medium in size. The large ones can be seedy, tough and lacking in flavor. Summer squashes should be stored in a sealed zip-top bag in the refrigerator and cooked very briefly so they doesn’t become mushy.

11. Peaches

Tired of bruised peaches? There’s an easy solution. Instead of resting them on their sides or trying to set them on their pointy ends, turn them upside down. This will keep the fruit stable, preventing it from rolling around and bruising.

12. Peppers

Peppers peak during the summer, and if you have access to a farmers market, you can find those outside of the green, red and yellow bell pepper spectrum. For the tastiest peppers, choose those that are firm, shiny and very colorful. Peppers should be stored in a plastic bag and refrigerated.

13. Cherries

Red cherries should be firm and richly colored, with a green stem. Rainier cherries should have some blush to them and are slightly less firm than other varieties. And cherries should be put in the fridge as soon as you get home; they deteriorate quickly at room temperature.

14. Radishes

Radishes should be separated from their greens as soon as you get them home — they can leach the moisture from the bulbs, leading to sogginess rather than that crunch we all love. Keep the radishes between layers of paper towels in a zip-top bag. The greens are best used the day you get them. Sauté them quickly, or add them to soups or stews.

More summer cooking tips

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