We pinch, punch and pluck fruits to determine whether they’re ripe, but there are more accurate ways to tell when your favorite fruit is at its sweetest.
Nothing compares to the flavor and texture of a perfectly ripe piece of fruit. That’s why it’s worth the effort to learn how to tell when fruit is at its peak.
Two types of fruit
Chris Mittelstaedt, founder and CEO of The FruitGuys, explains that fruits fall into one of two categories:
- Climacteric fruits: These are fruits that can ripen after being harvested. This category includes pears, peaches, apples and bananas, for example. You may have to ripen them at home.
- Non-climacteric fruits: These fruits — such as citrus and some berries — need to stay on the plant to get their full dose of sugar. They should be ready to eat when you buy them.
Use your strong sense of smell first. Fresh fruits tend to be very fragrant, according to Jackie Keller, a nutrition and health expert from Los Angeles.
Buy avocados green and store them in the refrigerator until you’re ready to ripen them. To ripen, set the fruit out at room temperature. The color will change from green to deep black. It’s ripe and ready to eat when the skin is black and the flesh slightly yields to the touch.
The navel (stem) end of the cantaloupe should give a bit when you press it with your thumb. If there’s no give, it’s not yet ready to eat. If your finger goes through, it’s over-ripe. Look for a yellow-orange color and avoid the green cantaloupes.
“Pears are introverts,” says Mittelstaedt. “They ripen from the inside out.”
Leave a pear out at room temperature — it will soften as it ripens. Grip the pear with your thumb and finger and apply pressure. When the outside yields slightly to the touch, the inside is ready to eat.
“Peaches are pure summer fruit and they don’t like the cold,” says Mittelstaedt. “Many people who buy fruit will put their peaches into the refrigerator, not realizing that they are storing these delicate wonders in exactly the temperature that will turn them to brown mush.”
Mittelstaedt recommends buying peaches fresh and leaving them in a shaded space at room temperature for proper ripening. “When they give slightly to gentle pressure and smell delicious, they are ready to eat.”
Is your banana ripe? “Color is really the key,” says Mittelstaedt, “but your taste buds hold the final say.” There are six classified levels of banana ripening, Mittelstaedt adds:
- Stages 1-4 (mostly green): “Too astringent to eat.”
- Stage 5 (yellow with green tips): “Yellow with green tips will provide the eater with a balance of both sugar and starch.”
- Stage 6 (all yellow): “Considered fully ripe.”
“Once the banana starts to get brown spots, you’ll notice that the skin thins as more starch is converted to sugar,” Mittelstaedt adds. It’s up to the eater to determine what color, texture and taste he or she likes best.