The summer season is primetime to enjoy from the bounty of fruits of the season. Since orchards, farmers markets, local outdoor vendors, and grocery stores abound with the season’s best picks, your opportunities abound to enjoy the freshest, juiciest, and most satisfying selections. If your neighborhood or city has frequent farmer’s markets, consider spending a day trying new and exotic fruit available; you will be surprised at what is out there! Still, even basic fruit does requires some mindful picking; use this guide to select the most ripe and luscious fruits of the season, and enjoy from just one of nature’s gifts this year.
Be sure to always wash and prepare all fruit to the best of your ability; consider a fruit cleansing spray for hand-pickings, as this will reduce your risk of food-borne illness and bacteria. Most fruit can be stored in the refrigerator, but do make note of those that will become overripe quickly after being cut.
Apples: Apples should always be bright in luster, firm, and crispy. If they are soft and can be bruised easily, they are overripe and will barely last a couple of days. Apples are preserved best in the refrigerator during the summer months in particular, and organic varieties offer even more flavors and textures to sample from.
Strawberries: The best strawberries are full, bright colored, and only slightly soft. Firmer strawberries are usually unripe, and will not taste juicy and full-flavored. Instead, opt for medium to soft varieties with strong colors. Store them in airtight but moist containers, ideally in the refrigerator.
Cantaloupe: This is often a difficult fruit to pick adequately, but it can be done! Pick a cantaloupe with a firm texture and one that is fair-rounded. You’ll need to leave it to ripen for an additional 2-3 days, and can cut up and store it for between 3-5 days. If it becomes too ‘mushy’ discard it; it has likely exceeded its expiration date!
Pineapples: Perhaps summer’s most tropical inspiration, pineapple may be difficult to pick. Choose the ones that have a sweet scent and medium in softness. Choose a pineapple that is bright yellow in color, and look for fresh leaves.
Bananas: The best bananas do not have any discoloration or brown spots; buy them when they are still green, and use a brown paper bag to speed up the ripening process if you desire. Bananas can last up to a week in their ‘green status’, and will be overripe when they turn brown. If you refrigerate a banana, it will likely turn completely brown in a few short hours; this does not mean it has ripened, but instead that the skin has experienced a reaction to the environment! Use a banana tree to hang your bananas without damage and easy storage.
Grapes: Try a couple! Test them for flavor and acidity, as sometimes the levels can vary. Buy those that are firmly attached to their stems, and avoid winkled and mushy types. Grapes always need to be rinsed thoroughly, and stored in the refrigerator. Seedless grapes usually ripen faster than those with seeds, and larger, water-based varieties are best when they are plump and well-rounded.
Pears: These will ripen fast, so purchase those that are somewhat unripened and hard. Depending on the variety, these will become fairly soft to the touch when fully ripe.
Berries: Other berries such as raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries are best picked when they are full colored, and medium in firmness. These should always be refrigerated as much as possible, as they will ripen fairly quickly.
Watermelon: Another often-difficult fruit to choose, watermelons that make a hollow sound when tapped are your best bet. Look at the watermelon’s ‘root area’ on its underside; if it is white, it is not ripe at all; if it is yellow, it is ready to go! This fruit refrigerates very well, and should be served almost immediately after being cut.
Cherries: Cherries are a great snack and can be used in baking and other desserts. Once picked, cherries don’t ripen any longer, so be sure to pick the right batch and serve them immediately. Frozen cherries are a convenient option.
Plums: Plums are fresh off the vine and will not ripen further except in a brown paper bag. Enjoy this fruit by picking those with strong colors, no dents or bumps, and a smooth, balanced color.
Kiwis: These delicious treats are a great snack and have a unique flavor and texture. Never eat the skin of a kiwi! It is not only indigestible, but the outer skin can create havoc for your tongue. Once ripe, kiwis spoil very fast, so do make sure to buy fairly firm, but medium softness for your best selection.
Oranges: Once oranges are picked off the tree, they do not ripen further. Your best bet is to choose by skin color and texture. Pick oranges that are even-colored, well-rounded, firm, and robust. These and other citrus fruits stay fresh longer when they are chilled.
Peaches: Nothing beats a summer afternoon than a fresh, juicy peach! Pick those that have no brown spots, are soft but not to mushy, and have no signs of discoloration. Peaches with deep red and orange nuances are usually fleshy, firm, and juicy, and they will ripen fast!
Enjoy all of summer’s fruits this year by selecting and picking the most ripe and tasty. You’ll be amazed at even your local grocery store’s selection of domestic and exotic fruits, but do shop around at organic stores and farmer’s markets for even more selections. Take care in making your selections, and you won’t be disappointed when you’re preparing that next picnic basket, creating a fruit plate, or simply enjoying a piece of fresh fruit at the end of a hot day.