Fruits

Apples

Selecting

With over 7,000 varieties of apples cultivated worldwide, you could taste a different one every day for more than 19 years and never eat the same kind twice. No matter which variety you choose, look for firm, fragrant, bruise-free fruit. Apples are available year-round because of their impressive lasting power, but this cold-hardy fruit is best from summer's end through late fall for apples produced in North America. Some apples taste wonderful out of hand, while others have softer textures that make them ideal for baking.

Variety

Characteristics

Eating

Baked

Sauce

Cider

Braeburn

crisp, firm, sweet, tart and spicy, long-lasting

excellent

fair

good

good

Cameo

sweet-tart, firm

excellent

fair

excellent

fair

Criterion

crisp, firm, juicy, mild, slight tartness

excellent

good

good

good

Empire

McIntosh/Red Delicious hybrid, soft, juicy, sweet

very good

fair

fair

fair

Fuji

extra crisp, sweet-tart

excellent

fair

fair

good

Gala

mildly sweet, fruity, fragrant, thin skinned

excellent

poor

good

good

Gingergold

mildly sweet, similar to Golden Delicious

excellent

fair

excellent

excellent

Golden Delicious

firm, very sweet, juicy, best when kept refrigerated

very good

fair

excellent

excellent

Granny Smith

crunchy, tart, juicy

very good

good

very good

fair

Gravenstein

crisp, sweet-tart, ideal for applesauce

excellent

fair

excellent

fair

Honeycrisp

crisp, sweet, great fragrance

excellent

good

excellent

excellent

Jonagold

Jonathan/Golden Delicious hybrid, tart, crisp, juicy

excellent

very good

fair

good

Macintosh

tender, sweet, mild, fragrant

excellent

poor

very good

good

Mutsu (Cripsin)

mildly sweet, firm, creamy

good

fair

fair

fair

Pink Lady brand

firm, crisp, sweet-tart

excellent

good

fair

fair

Pippin

crisp, tart, sweet finish

good

excellent

fair

fair

Red Delicious

grainy, juicy, very sweet

very good

poor

fair

poor

Rome

grainy, soft, juicy, sweet

fair

excellent

good

fair

Sierra Beauty

crisp, slightly tart

excellent

good

good

fair

Winesap

firm, slightly tart, sweet-sour contrast

good

excellent

excellent

excellent

Storing

Apples ripen quickly at room temperature. If you plan to eat them within a day or two, they'll be fine on the counter. Otherwise, store them in a bag in the refrigerator's crisper. As apples ripen, they give off a lot of ethylene gas, which shortens the storage life of some other vegetables, so keep them in their own compartment. For the same reason, you can actually use apples to ripen avocados and bananas more quickly by placing them in a paper bag together. To extend peak apple enjoyment for any variety except Golden Delicious and McIntosh (these do not freeze well), slice and freeze apples in a single layer on a sheet tray, then transfer them to a freezer bag and use them in baking or sauces.

Using

Apples are used extensively in baking because they blend so well with the flavors of vanilla, honey, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, mace, cardamom, clove and other spices. They also create a deliciously sweet flavor contrast when paired with savory flavors like rosemary, sage and lemon. Apples complement pork, squash and bitter greens and offset a range of cheeses, particularly cow’s milk cheeses, pungent washed rind cheeses and many blue cheeses.

Nutrition Information

Apples are rich in flavonoids and other polyphenols, and are high in pectin, a soluble dietary fiber.

Fast Fact

Washington State grows more than half the fresh apples Americans buy in stores each year.

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Apricots

Selecting

When choosing apricots, look for plump, orange fruits. Some will have a beautiful reddish blush. When they are ripe, apricots should yield to gentle pressure. Many varieties of apricot ripen from the center pit (or stone) outwards so you should never let apricots get too soft.

Storing

Apricots are best ripened at room temperature in a single layer, rather than piled up. If they are not quite ripe, you can also store them in a paper bag at room temperature, away from heat or direct sunlight, for two to three days. Ripe apricots should be refrigerated and used as soon as possible. 

Using

To halve apricots, cut down to the pit around the longitudinal seam and twist the two halves to separate them. Dip peeled or cut-up apricots into diluted lemon juice to keep them from browning. If you need to peel them for a recipe, do so by dropping the fruits in boiling water and blanch them for just 15 to 20 seconds, then remove them and cool them under cold water or by submerging them in ice water. Use a knife to pull away their skin; it should slip right off.

Nutrition Information

Apricots are a source of fiber, potassium and vitamin C.

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Avocados

Selecting

The most common variety of avocado sold in the US is the Hass. The Hass has a bumpy skin that changes from a bright green to black as it ripens. To test for ripeness, hold the avocado in your palm, wrapping your fingers around it and pressing the skin gently. If it yields, it's ripe. Look for fruit that is free of soft spots; brusing causes the interior flesh to discolor. It is best to buy firm avocados a few days before you need them and finish ripening at home to prevent bruising. 

Storing

Avocados ripen after they've been picked and become fully ripe within a few days at room temperature. Ripening can be accelerated by placing them in a loosely closed paper sack (add a banana or apple to the sack to hasten ripening even further). Once ripe, avocados may be refrigerated for a few days.

Using

Avocados should be eaten raw and prepared immediately before consumption, since cutting and exposure to the air causes oxidation (darkening) of the flesh. This phenomenon can be delayed by sprinkling or tossing with lime juice. The best-known avocado dish is guacamole. Avocados can also be added to hot dishes such as soups, stews and omelets just before serving, and they are delicious on sandwiches or added to salsas, fruit salads or tuna salad. Contrary to the urban myth, placing an avocado pit in your bowl of guacamole will not keep it from turning brown. This idea probably started because the pit, if left in a halved avocado, protects the flesh that it touches from coming in contact with air. A better way to keep your guacamole fresh is to press plastic wrap down onto the surface of the avocado, eliminating all contact with air.

Nutrition Information

Avocados are an excellent source of potassium, folic acid and vitamin C. They have very little sugar or starch, yet contain more protein than any other fruit. Their high oil content is 70% monounsaturated, much like olive oil, which means it's good for you. Avocados also contain significant quantities of the antioxidant lutein, which research shows to be beneficial for eye health.

Fast Fact

Though often used like a vegetable, avocados are a tree fruit native to Central America.

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Bananas

Selecting

Select bananas that are slightly green, firm and without bruises.

Storing

Yellow-green bananas will usually become ripe at room temperature within one to three days. Bananas, like most tropical fruits, should never be refrigerated. Bananas do not ripen naturally once they are cut from the tree. To facilitate ripening, bananas are treated with ethylene gas. To hasten the ripening process for bananas that are green, place them in a paper or plastic bag; this traps the ethylene and speeds the ripening process. To take advantage of very ripe bananas, peel them, cut them into chunks and freeze them.

Using

Ripe bananas can be added to many desserts, breads and cakes. Use frozen bananas for smoothies, or defrost and mash them for baking or making fruit sauces.

Nutrition Information

Bananas are high in potassium and are also a source of B vitamins, vitamin A, protein and fiber.

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Blackberries

Selecting

Look for berries that are firm, dry and of uniform purplish-black color. Containers that have berries that are wet or leaky are usually indicative of damage or decay and should be avoided.

Storing

As with most berries, it is best to transfer blackberries from the container you bought them in to a shallow bowl. Wash the berries right before you use them as excessive exposure to moisture speeds decay. Blackberries keep best in the refrigerator. 

Using

Serve fresh blackberries drizzled with honey, with yogurt or ice cream, or tossed in a salad. Cooked desserts and jams incorporate fresh or frozen blackberries equally well—no need to thaw frozen ones before adding them to recipes.

Nutrition Information

Like most darkly colored fruits and vegetables, blackberries are rich in antioxidants, including vitamins C and E as well as ellagic acid.

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Blueberries

Selecting

Select firm, dry berries that have a uniform blue-black color. As with all berries, wet leaky fruit it the first sign of decay.

Storing

As with most berries, it is best to transfer blueberries from the container you bought them to a covered, shallow container. Wash the berries right before you use them as excessive exposure to moisture speeds decay. Blueberries keep best in the refrigerator. 

Using

When adding fresh blueberries to pancake batter, dust them lightly with flour and add them last to prevent them from sinking to the bottom of the mix and becoming unevenly distributed. Blueberries are great in summer salads and smoothies. Try freezing them to mix with Greek yogurt (or just pop them into your mouth) for a frosty treat.

Nutrition Information

Blueberries, both wild and domestic, are increasingly recognized for their health benefits, particularly their high antioxidant content. Because of their small size, wild blueberries have more skin and therefore more antioxidants per pound than domesticated varieties.

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Cherries

Selecting

Look for plump, firm fruits with green, attached stems. Check carefully for bruises or cuts on the surface of the fruit -- particularly with yellow varieties since they ten to bruise easier. Red cherry varieties will vary in color from a bright red to a dark almost blackish burgundy so color is not always the best indicator of quality!

Storing

Refrigerate unwashed cherries in a plastic bag, or in a shallow bowl. Fresh cherries in good condition should keep for up to a week. Pitted cherries can be frozen for snacks year round.

Using

Pits can be removed most easily with a cherry pitter, but a drinking straw or a paring knife will both work. To use a straw, press it through the center of the cherry starting at the bottom. The straw will push the pit out, leaving behind a small tunnel through the center of the fruit. If the appearance of the fruit is not of concern, slice each cherry from base to stem all the way around with a paring knife, then twist the cherry apart and pull out the pit.

Nutrition Information

Cherries are a good source of fiber and vitamin C.

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Coconuts

Selecting

Look for a coconut that is heavy for its size with no visible signs of decay. Avoid those with any liquid leaking out of the three black eyes at the top. Lift the coconut up and down—you should feel the coconut water sloshing around (this is not coconut milk). The seasonal peak is in fall to early winter but coconuts are available year round.

Storing

A coconut will keep at room temperature for up to six months. Coconut meat (removed from the shell) can be kept refrigerated for about four days.

Using

There are several ways to crack a coconut. One method is to pierce two of the eyes with a metal skewer or screwdriver; drain out the coconut water into a bowl; using a hammer, tap the coconut about one-third of the way from the eyes; keep tapping until it breaks open. You may drink the juice. The meat can be used to make coconut milk. One medium coconut will yield about 3 to 4 cups of grated coconut meat.

Nutrition Information

Coconut is a good source of potassium and is high in saturated fat.

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Cranberries

Selecting

Firmness is the best indicator of quality in fresh cranberries, while depth of color—a lustrous, deep, scarlet red—is a measure of their antioxidant content. The peak season runs from October through November, lending their festive color and sharp flavor to holiday celebrations. When selecting any type of berry, it is important to inspect their packaging carefully to look for signs of excessive moisture as this tends to speed the process of decay.

Storing

Fresh cranberries can be stored in the refrigerator for several weeks or frozen indefinitely.

Using

The natural tartness of cranberries can be used as a substitute for vinegar or lemon in tossed salads. To mitigate their tartness, combine cranberries with sugar or other fruits such as pears, apples or oranges.

Nutrition Information

Cranberries are a good source of vitamin C. Some research has shown the effectiveness of cranberry juice in reducing the incidence of urinary tract infections.

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Dates

Selecting

Fresh dates should be plump and glossy. Some dried varieties exhibit a dusting of sugar crystals on the surface that can be mistaken for mold. Sugar on or just under the skin does not indicate inferior quality. 

Storing

Keep fresh dates covered in the refrigerator for three or four weeks. Dried dates will last for several months kept in an airtight container either at room temperature (a cool, dark place is best) or in the refrigerator.

Using

To remove the pits from dates, cut a slit in the side and pry out the seed. Cutting or chopping is easily done with a pair of kitchen shears. Dates can be eaten out of hand (try dates rolled in shredded coconut), added to cereal, or used in baking cakes, cookies, puddings and sweet breads. In North Africa, they are routinely used in stews or casseroles featuring chicken or lamb, steamed with couscous, or combined with citrus fruits and nuts in salads. Chopped dates are an excellent substitute for raisins.

Nutritional Information

Dates are a significant source of fiber, antioxidants and potassium. Dried dates typically contain about 70% more calories than fresh dates due to increased sugar content, but calories vary widely depending on variety and size.

Fast Fact

Dates come from a palm tree.

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Figs

Selecting

There are two seasons for domestic fresh figs; the first or "breba" season is the first few weeks in June. The second or "new wood" season typically runs from August through October. The most common variety is the Black Mission fig followed by the Brown Turkey fig and the Green Kadota fig respectivly. Look for fruit that is slightly soft to the touch with no surface breaks in the skin. Fruit with sap coming out of the opposite end of the stem indicates ripeness and high sugar content.

Storing

Fresh figs should be removed from the containers you bought them in to prevent bruising. Fresh figs will store for several days in a shallow bowl in your refrigerator.

Using

To prepare fresh figs for use, rinse in cool running water and remove the stem. Fresh figs are usually eaten raw but are also good sautéed, baked or grilled. Long associated with Mediterranean cuisines, figs complement many foods from that region, including onions, garlic, peppers and anchovies. They pair well with salted and smoked meats such as ham and turkey (the Italian tradition of serving figs with prosciutto goes back to the Roman Empire). Grilled figs are especially delicious with pork, chicken or lamb and can be served as dessert topped with vanilla ice cream, crème fraiche or mascarpone. They can also be gently poached in water, juice or wine before being eaten out of hand or baked in cakes or cookies. Figs can be stuffed or topped with almonds, walnuts, nut butters, yogurt or cheese. 

Nutrition Information

Figs are a good source of potassium, manganese and dietary fiber.

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Gooseberries

Selecting

Look for berries that are clean, plump and feel like grapes. Early season gooseberries are typically the green "cooking" variety, which are smaller and firmer than late season varieties. Late season berries are larger and softer with a color range from yellow to red, are sweeter and can be eaten raw. 

Storing

Early season green berries will keep unwashed in the refrigerator for up to a week and a half. They also freeze well. Later season varieties are more fragile and should be kept refrigerated for no more than two or three days.

Using

Prepare gooseberries by peeling off any husk that may be present, rinse them and pat dry. Trim the tops and tails with kitchen scissors. Gooseberries can vary greatly in acidity and sharpness of flavor, so be prepared to adjust the amount of sweeteners called for in recipes. The English love gooseberries in pies, puddings and a soufflé-like dessert called Gooseberry Fool, which consists of gooseberries cooked in sugar, then sieved and folded into whipped cream. They also pair well with rhubarb and raspberries.

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Grapefruit, Pomelos

Selecting

The simple rule for choosing citrus fruits is that they should feel firm and heavy for their size. Good color and a fresh appearance are also important. Avoid fruit that is misshapen or obviously damaged or that has brown spots.

Grapefruit is a pomelo-orange hybrid. The major types of grapefruit are white, pink/red, and star ruby/rio red varieties. All grapefruit have a similar tangy-sweet flavor and are very juicy. The grapefruits that contain a lot of seeds are used to make juice.

Pomelos (also called pummelos) are larger and have a flavor similar to grapefruit but less bitter. They are usually green, but may also be yellow or pink and have a very thick rind. Look for thin skins and avoid those that feel coarse or mushy. The bottom center of a ripe pomelo should feel slightly soft when pressed.

Storing

Store grapefruit and pomelos at room temperature up to a week, or up to eight weeks in a refrigerator.

Using

Grapefruit and pomelos may be eaten the same way—cut in half and scoop out the flesh with a spoon, or segmented and used in salads.

Nutrition Information

Grapefruit is high in vitamins C and A. The pink or red varieties contain more vitamins than the white. Pomelos are high in vitamin C.

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Grapes

Selecting

Select fruit that is firm, ripe, clean, uniformly shaped and colored. The greener the stem, the fresher the grapes. The domestic fresh grape season is May through November, with imported varieties filling in the rest of the year.

Storing

Ripe grapes may be kept in a bag or shallow bowl in the refrigerator for more than a week. Freezing grapes makes for a refreshing snack on hot summer days. To freeze, simply wash and pat dry, then arrange individual grapes in a single layer on a cookie sheet or plate and freeze thoroughly (at least two hours). When frozen, transfer to a suitable freezer container.

 

Using

If you're not going to consume the entire bunch, remove small clusters with scissors instead of pulling off individual grapes. This prevents the stem from drying out, keeping the remaining grapes fresher. Some recipes say to peel grapes, but this is rarely necessary. Grape skins contain most of the nutrients and flavor and should be used whenever possible. To remove seeds from varieties that have them, simply cut the grape in half and scoop out the seeds with the point of a knife.

Nutrition Information

Grapes are an excellent source of fiber and vitamin C.

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Lemons, Limes

Selecting

The simple rule for choosing citrus fruits is that they should feel firm and heavy for their size. Good color and a fresh appearance are also important. Avoid fruit that is misshapen or obviously damaged.

Variety

Characteristics

Recommended Use

Lemons

high acid, bright flavor

souring agent, flavoring enhancer, juice added to recipes

Key Limes

highest acid of all citrus

beverages, pie, juice/zest added to recipes

Persian Limes

dominant type found in the U.S.

beverages, juice/zest added to recipes

Kumquats

edible rind, juicy, slightly tart

out of hand, salads, preserves

Storing

Lemons and limes will keep at room temperature for three or four days and up to two weeks if refrigerated.

Using

To maximize the amount of juice when squeezing, first roll the fruit under the palm of your hand on a flat surface to break down the inner fruit and release the juice. Keeping them at room temperature or warming a lemon or lime for a few seconds in the microwave can also maximize juice output. When zesting lemons or limes, take care not to scrape off the pith, which is the bitter, white lining found beneath the colorful rind.

Nutrition Information

Lemons and limes are high in vitamin C and also provide iron, thiamin and B6.

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Mangoes

Selecting

The skin of a ripe mango (for the most common varieties found in US grocery stores) is usually yellow. Some varieties will have a red blush but this color does not indicate ripeness. Ripe mangoes smell sweet, fruity and almost flowery, and feel slightly soft when gentle pressure is applied. Avoid mangoes with large, dark spots (they are likely bruised) or with pruned skin. 

Storing

Mangoes will ripen naturally at room temperature. Ripe fruit can be cut and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Using

To cut a mango easily, slice crosswise around either side of the large pit; pull the two halves apart; then use a knife to cut vertical and horizontal lines, creating bite size cubes. Finally, remove the flesh of the two pit-less portions, turning the unharmed skins inside out. Eat the cubes right off of the skin or peel them off and use them in a favorite mango recipe. Watch a step-by-step video on how to cut a mango.

Nutrition Information

Mangoes are a source of vitamins C and E, niacin, potassium, iron and beta-carotene.

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Melons

Selecting

The best way to tell if a melon is ripe is to press on the end opposite the stem. If the melon is ripe, it will yield noticeably to the pressure of your finger. Choose melons that are heavy for their size and free of bruises or other damage. Check the navel, or stem end, for excessive softness and/or mold. Ripe melons can have a sweet, musky smell but fragrance alone is not a reliable indicator of ripeness or quality. Peaks season for US melons is May through September depending on variety; imported melons are available year round. The best way to gauge the ripeness of any kind of melon is to sample it. Ask a team member for a sample the next time you visit our produce department!

Storage

Most ripe melons can be refrigerated for more than a week. Once cut, melons should be wrapped tightly in plastic and refrigerated for no more than three or four days. 

Using

Always thoroughly wash the outside surface of melons before cutting them. Melons are an excellent summer anytime fruit; good for breakfast, or as a side or salad replacement for lunch or dinner.

Nutrition Information

Honeydew melons are a good source of vitamin B-6, folate, potassium and a very good source of vitamin C. Cantaloupe is an excellent source of vitamin A and beta-carotene and vitamin C. In addition to containing vitamin C, watermelons (which are 92% water) also contain lycopene, which scientists believe helps our bodies fight disease.

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Nectarines

Selecting

Choose brightly colored and fragrant nectarines that yield to gentle thumb pressure, especially along the seam. A rosy blush is not an indication of ripeness, merely a varietal characteristic. Avoid rock hard or overly greenish fruits as well as fruits that 

are too soft.

Storing

Firm nectarines will ripen in two or three days if kept at room temperature. Many white nectarine varieties ripen faster so check fruit regularly!

Using

A natural genetic variant of the peach, nectarines are perfect for pies, cobblers or fresh fruit salads. If refrigerated, allow nectarines to warm to room temperature for optimum flavor. Since the skins are tender and there is no fuzz, there is no need to peel them for most uses. If slicing them for a snack or salad, wait until the last minute because the flesh will brown when exposed to air.

Nutrition Information

 

Nectarines are high in fiber, vitamins C and A, niacin and potassium.

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Oranges, Tangerines

Selecting

The simple rule for choosing citrus fruits is that they should feel firm and heavy for their size. Avoid fruit that is misshapen or obviously damaged, or soft and dull in appearance. The peak US citrus season is long (from October through May) and is dominated by smaller mandarin and tangerine varieties early, then larger varieties later in the season.

Popular Orange Varieties

Variety

Characteristics

Growing Season

Recommended Use

Blood Oranges

sweet, high in antioxidants

January-April

out of hand, fruit trays, fruit salads

Valencia Oranges 

sweet, mild, difficult to peel

May-October

juicing

Navel Oranges

seedless, easy to peel

November-April

out of hand

Mandarin Oranges (Satsumas, Page, Pixie, Sumo)

delicate flavor, less acid than oranges, easy to peel

November-April

out of hand, salads

Clementines

small, thin skin, easy to peel, few/no seeds

November-January

out of hand, salads

Tangelos (Minneolas/Orlandos)

mandarin-pomelo/grapefruit hybrid

January-March

salad dressings, sauces

Storing

Oranges will keep at room temperature for a week, or up to two weeks if refrigerated. Mandarins and tangelos are more delicate and should not be kept at room temperature for more than three or four day but will last up to a week in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator.

Using

Fresh oranges aren’t just for snacking and juicing. They can also be used in desserts and in cooked dishes, particularly with poultry. Grated orange peel (zest) can be used to flavor a wide variety of foods. Fresh citrus also makes a great addition to winter salads.

Nutrition Information

Oranges provide vitamin C, fiber, olacin, calcium, potassium, thiamin, niacin and magnesium.

Fast Fact

The delightful aroma of citrus fruits comes from small sacs of volatile oils embedded just below the surface of the peel.

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Papayas

Selecting

There are two main varieties of papayas: the small Golden or Sunrise papaya, weighing around 1 pound each; and the enormous Maradol papaya, which can weigh up to 15 pounds. Look for papayas that are fairly large, half yellow or more and slightly soft. A ripe papaya should yield to gentle palm pressure. Avoid those that are too soft or have scars or blemishes.

Storing

Papayas will ripen at room temperature. Unripe papaya can be kept up to one or two weeks. Completely ripe papayas should be refrigerated and eaten as soon as possible. To hasten ripening, store them in a loosely shut paper bag.

Using

Papaya is often enjoyed in ice creams, salads, preserves, and juices or simply alone with a wedge of lime (often part of a Caribbean breakfast). Unripe papaya can be used for cooking.

Nutrition Information

Papayas provide vitamin C, folate, potassium, fiber, vitamin A, vitamin E, carotenoids and lycopene

Fast Fact

Papayas are known for their enzyme, papain, which is believed to aid digestion and is the basis for many meat tenderizing products.

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Peaches

Selecting

Look for peaches with skins that show a background color of yellow or warm cream. The amount of pink or red blush on their cheeks depends on the variety and is not a reliable indicator of ripeness. Undertones of green indicate the peaches may have been picked too soon. Choose fruits that are mildly fragrant. Avoid rock-hard peaches and choose those that yield slightly to pressure along the seam, even if they may otherwise be fairly firm. Peaches at this stage of ripeness will soften if kept at room temperature for a few days. There are two broad variety categories of peach -- cling and freestone -- and each has different ripening characteristics. Freestone peaches, where the flesh of the peach separates easily from the pit, should be eaten when they are a bit firmer than you'd usually eat the cling varieties.

Storing

Peaches are best kept at room temperature but can be refrigerated once ripened for a short period of time. Wash and cut peaches as close to serving time as possible because the flesh will brown when exposed to air.

Using

Peaches are great eaten alone (or with friends and family) and in a wide range of dishes. Enjoy them in salads, grill and serve them with ice cream, or bake them in pies and cobblers. Most growers remove the fuzz layer on the skin in post-harvest so you can eat peaches with the skin on or off.

Nutrition Information

Peaches are high in fiber, vitamins A and C, niacin and potassium.

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Pears

Selecting

There are many varieties of pears available in the US, all with slightly different ripening and selection characteristics (see chart below). The US harvest season for pears runs from August through December with storage fruit available into February most years. A second import season provides fruit from the early spring into summer.

European Pear Varieties

Variety

Characteristics

Available

Recommended Use

Appearance

Anjou

sweet, can be eaten firm or soft

year round

out of hand

green or red, green changes to green-yellow when ripe

Bartlett

aromatic, sweet, juicy, soft

August-June

out of hand, canning, cooking, salads

green fruit turns yellow when ripe

Bosc

aromatic, firm, crisp

September-June

baking, poaching

exterior color does not change when ripe

Comice

very sweet, flavorful, soft

September-January with a small import season in late Spring

out of hand, desserts, served with cheese

dull green or red/yellow, changes very little when ripe

Concorde

dense, crisp, sweet

October-December

salads, baking 

green with yellow undertones when ripe

Forelle

small, sweet, juicy

September-February

out of hand, baking

deep yellow with red blush

Seckel

small, very sweet, spicy

September-February

out of hand, garnish, baking, pickling

maroon and olive green, does not change when ripe

Asian pears have a crisp texture and have a rounder shape like apples. There are dozens of varieties, including 20th Century (Nijisseki), Chojuro, Hosui, Kikusui, Kosui, Niitaka, Shinseiki, Shinko, Shinsui and Ya Li. Most are available in late August and September with a few available in late July.

Storing

Because Asian pears ripen on the tree, they are ripe and ready to eat when you buy them, and are best kept in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. Most varieties will keep for several weeks.

 

Most pears ripen best at room temperature. Keep them in a fruit bowl or in a loosely closed paper sack and check for ripeness daily by pressing gently near the stem with your thumb. If the flesh yields, the pear is ready to eat. Ripening can be delayed by refrigerating. Lengthy refrigeration when fully ripe can make some varieties mealy. 

Nutrition Information

Pears are a good source of dietary fiber, particularly if unpeeled. Pears also contain significant amounts of vitamin C and potassium.

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Persimmons

Selecting

There are two distinct types of persimmons: astringent and non-astringent. Astringent varieties, like the Hachiya, are not good to eat until the persimmon is the consistency of jelly. Non-astringent varieties, like the flatter Fuju, have a delightful crunch and a sweet, almost spicy flavor. These persimmons can be eaten out of hand like an apple, or cut up for a fruit tray or in salads. As the fruit ripens, the non-astringent varieties lose their crispness and become softer, but unlike an apple, they are still very good when soft.

Storing

Like pears, all persimmons will continue to ripen off the tree. If you purchase Hachiya persimmons that are still firm, simply leave them out on the counter, stem side down, until they are soft.

Using

Once ripe, astringent persimmons can be cut in half and the pulp eaten with a spoon, mixed into yogurt, or spread on toast like jelly. For cooking, Hachiya persimmons are most often used in desserts like pudding, and also in quick breads, cakes, muffins or cookies, just like other soft fruits. Non-astringent persimmons can be eaten plain or sliced and added to salads. Except the papery stem, every part of the fruit is edible, including the seeds and the skin. However, in some instances the skin can be tough and you may prefer to peel it off.

Nutrition Information

Persimmons are a good source of vitamins A and C, fiber and manganese.

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Pineapples

Selecting

Choose fresh-looking pineapples with green leaves and firm fruit. Pineapples are picked when ripe and do not continue ripening after harvest. Even green pineapples are ripe! Carefully examine the whole pineapple for bruises or soft spots.

Storing

Although they may appear tough, pineapples are very perishable and they do not continue ripening once they are cut from the plant. Fresh pineapples will keep at room temperature for several days. Cut pineapple should be store in an airtight container and will keep for more than a week.

Using

To cut fresh pineapple, first chop off the crown and base with a sharp, serrated knife. Then slice off the skin in a downward motion, making sure to cut deeply enough to remove the eyes, following the fruit’s curvature. Dig out any remaining eyes or woody bits. Next slice the pineapple in half lengthwise and trim away the tough center core. Use the remaining flesh. Pineapple makes a wonderful addition to yogurt, fruit salads, juices, baked sweets, preserves and many other recipes.

Nutrition Information

Pineapple is a good source of fiber, thiamin, vitamin B6, vitamin C and manganese.

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Plums

Selecting

Most plum varieties are harvested and shipped to market while they are still firm. When selecting plums, for best texture, look for fruit that yields to gentle pressure. Look for heavy well-formed fruit with consistent exterior coloring.

Storing

Ripe plums can be refrigerated for more than a week. Plums ripen well off the tree when kept at room temperature in a single layer, stem ends down. To hasten ripening, place them in a loosely closed paper bag and leave them at room temperature for a day or two; when softened, transfer them to the refrigerator.

Using

Plums will be juiciest (and to most palates taste sweetest) when eaten at room temperature. European prune plums are better for cooking, as they are easier to pit and their firmer, drier flesh holds up well when heated. Cooked plums are usually eaten with the skins on, but if you need to peel them, blanch them in boiling water for about 30 seconds and then submerge them in ice water to loosen the skins for peeling.

Nutrition Information

Plums are a good source of vitamins A and C, calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium and fiber.

Fast Fact

A plum's seed or “stone” is unique to its particular variety and almost as individual as a human fingerprint.

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Pomegranates

Selecting

Choose pomegranates with consistent exterior color and unbroken surface area. The fruit should be heavy and free of soft spots. Fresh pomegranates are available September though January.

Storing

Pomegranates will keep at room temperature for about a week or in the refrigerator for up to two months.

Using

Eating pomegranates out of hand is laborious because of their tough, leathery skin. The best way to prepare a pomegranate for eating is to slice it into sections, cutting from top to bottom. In a large bowl half filled with water, roll out the arils (seed casings) with your fingers. Discard the skin and membranes and strain. The seeds can be eaten raw or sprinkled on salads. Peeled seeds will last approximately a week in the refrigerator and may be frozen for up to a year. The seeds can be juiced by pulsing in a blender. You may wish to strain the juice to eliminate any debris. The juiced seeds will last about five days under refrigeration, and up to six months frozen. Pomegranate is most commonly used as a spice (dried seeds), fresh squeezed and thickened (as grenadine syrup), as a dressing on salads or as an ingredient in marinades, glazes, dips, desserts, soups, relishes, liqueurs, jams and jellies.

Nutrition Information

Pomegranates are a good source of vitamin C and have modest amounts of vitamins A and E as well as folic acid. They are higher in antioxidants than blueberries, cranberries and red wine. Unlike most other fruits, pomegranate juice may be more healthful than the raw fruit because of the release of antioxidants in the squeezing process.

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Raspberries

Selecting

Look for berries that are plump, firm, dry and deeply colored. Raspberries are most abundant May through October, with their peak season varying depending on climate and local varieties. When selecting any type of berry, it is important to inspect their packaging carefully for signs of soft or leaky fruit. Raspberries should be bright red and the color should be consistent from berry to berry.

Storing

Raspberries are fragile and highly perishable and should be consumed or frozen within 1-2 days of purchase. Raspberries can be kept in the container they were purchased in and should not be washed until right before serving.

Using

Raspberries are a special treat on cereal or mixed with plain yogurt and honey on pancakes or waffles. For a flavor twist, try sprinkling them with a little balsamic vinegar. Toss a few berries into a celebratory glass of champagne or white wine for a sensuous flavor boost.

Nutrition Information

Raspberries are high in antioxidants and dietary fiber.

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Strawberries

Selecting

Choose berries that are firm, dry, shaped properly and have a uniform deep, red color with attached green caps. Strawberry season runs from February through October with peak availability from May through July. When selecting strawberries, it is important to inspect their packaging carefully to look for signs of wet leaky berries.

Storing

Because strawberries are highly perishable, be prepared to consume or freeze them soon after purchase. Excessive moisture will speed decay so wash berries just before you serve them. 

Using

Strawberries are great for any meal as an addition to breakfast grains, a side to sandwiches or tossed into a salad. Frozen strawberries make a great stand alone snack -- or blend them into smoothies.

Nutrition Information

Strawberries are second only to blueberries in antioxidant content and they have more vitamin C than any other berry.

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Tomatillos

Selecting

Look for husks that appear fresh and that are dry but soft to the touch; pale-colored, green to brown; and tightly filled with fruit. Some husks may have been forced open, an indication of robust growth, not quality. The fruit itself should be light green and firm without blemishes. A yellow or purple blush on the fruit indicates over-maturity for most uses, though some cooks prefer the sweeter flavor of fully ripe fruit. Spring to early summer is the season of greatest abundance.

Storing

If you're not going to use them immediately, keep the husks on and store in a paper bag in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator for up to three weeks. Do not keep them in an airtight container. Tomatillos freeze well. Simply remove the husks and place them in a suitable container. When needed, take out the desired amount and thaw them at room temperature.

Using

Tomatillos are sometimes used to flavor rice and tenderize meat. By far the most common use is as a base for salsa verde, usually combined with onions, cilantro, garlic, lime juice and chili peppers. Pork dishes in particular are complemented by salsa verde.

Nutrition Information

Tomatillos are a good source of iron, magnesium, phosphorous, copper, fiber, vitamins C and K, niacin, potassium and manganese.

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Tomatoes

Selecting

Tomatoes should feel heavy for their size and be soft and yield only slightly to the touch. Size has no correlation with quality—large tomatoes can be just as delicious as small ones. Late summer is domestic tomato season, although greenhouse tomatoes can be found year round in the produce department. The heirloom full sized and cherry tomato season runs from mid-June through September and feature fruit of varying shapes and sizes. The smaller cherry types are sweet and full flavored, while the larger beefsteak varieties tend to be sweet with low acidity and excellent texture.

Storing

Tomatoes should be stored at room temperature and then eaten within a few days once ripe. Hasten ripening by placing them in a paper bag with a banana or an apple. Never refrigerate tomatoes!

Using

Common “beefsteak” tomatoes are usually cut into wedges for salads and sliced for sandwiches. Italian plum tomatoes, also called Romas, are ideal for tomato sauce and other cooking uses. Small cherry or grape tomatoes are an easy addition to salads. Heirloom tomatoes can be used as a replacement for lettuce-based salads in the late summer when leaf lettuce quality is inconsistent. To peel tomatoes for cooking, use a paring knife to slice a tiny X on the bottom of each tomato and immerse it in boiling water for about 20 seconds; then use a slotted spoon to transfer it to a bowl of ice-cold water to stop cooking. Skins should slip off easily.

Nutrition Information

Tomatoes are a source of vitamins A, C and K, potassium and the antioxidant lycopene. The redder the tomato, the more lycopene it contains.

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