How To Select the Freshest Fruits and Vegetables

How To Select The Freshest Fruits and Vegetables

Selecting the freshest fruits and vegetables isn’t always easy, but knowing what to look for will greatly impact the flavor of your meals.

There’s nothing worse than going to the grocery store, grabbing a bunch of fruits and vegetables from the produce section, and getting home only to realize they aren’t fresh or tasty. It’s so hard to know how to select the freshest fruit when you are at the store. Especially if you are trying to be quick because you have impatient kids with you.

General Suggestions

  • Give your produce a quick once-over and avoid any that is wilted, wrinkled, drooping, bruised, or has signs of insect damage.
  • Don’t wash your produce until you are ready to serve because the additional water can speed up the molding process.
  • Most stores don’t get produce shipments over the weekend. So any available on Sunday and Monday morning have usually been there for a few days.

Originally Published On: May 24, 2018

Last Updated On: April 8, 2020

Overview of Fruits and Vegetables

Fruit Overview

  • Avoid large fruit. Usually, they are so big because they are overripe and won’t have as much flavor or will start to get bitter.
  • The surface of fruit should be smooth and even.
  • Give a gentle squeeze. Most fruit should be firm with just a slight give to it.
  • Judge the weight of fruit compared to the others, especially melons and citrus. Heavier fruit usually means they are juicier on the inside.
  • Fruit should have a slightly sweet smell. Too sweet may mean it’s overripe. And a foul smell means it’s either rotten or way past desired ripeness.
How To Select the Freshest Fruits and Vegetables

Vegetable Overview

  • Similar to fruit, give your vegetables a quick overview to look for even color.
  • Most vegetables should be as firm as possible. A soft vegetable means it is either overripe, rotting, or bruised on the inside.
  • Leafy greens should be crisp with leaves that are consistent in color. There may be a couple of leaves that are torn or brown from shipping, but this should only be in a few spots.
  • Root vegetables should also be firm and solid.
  • A root vegetable with a crack can mean they are dry inside.
How To Select the Freshest Fruits and Vegetables

Buy Ripe and Ready or Let Ripen at Home?

There are some fruits and vegetables that you need to buy ready-to-eat because they won’t get any riper as they sit at home. Others can be bought a little under-ripe and will ripen up on your counter. For those that will continue to ripen, they should be left out and transferred to the refrigerator once ripe to “lock in” the state of ripeness for a few days.

Buy Ripe:

  • Apples
  • Beets
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Cucumbers
  • Eggplants
  • Garlic
  • Grapefruits
  • Grapes
  • Leafy Greens
  • Lemons
  • Limes
  • Mushrooms
  • Onions
  • Oranges
  • Peppers
  • Potatoes
  • Strawberries
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Tangerines
  • Turnips
  • Zucchini
How To Select the Freshest Fruits and Vegetables

Buy Under-Ripe:

  • Apricots
  • Avocados
  • Bananas
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cherries
  • Honeydew
  • Nectarines
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Plums
  • Tomatoes
  • Watermelon
How To Select the Freshest Fruits and Vegetables

What to Look for to get the Freshest Fruits and Vegetables

Of course, the general rules are great for a quick and easy reference for buying the freshest produce. But if you want to be more specific, the following information will give you a guide for the most popular produce to get the freshest fruits and vegetables.


  • Apples: Look for a rich, even color without blemishes
  • Avocados: Slightly soft without cracks or dents
  • Bananas: Ripe bananas are a solid yellow with a few brown spots. If you want to ripen at home, buy with a little green still on them.
  • Blueberries: Brightly colored, firm blueberries without any leaks in the container
  • Cantaloupes: Sweet smell with a little bit of give to the ends
  • Cherries: Plump and dark red with fresh stems
  • Grapefruit: Heavy and firm
  • Kiwi: Brown and fuzzy skin, slight give when squeezed, citrus smell
  • Oranges: Heavy, skin is not coarse or spongy
  • Peaches: Tree-ripened have the most flavor
  • Pears: Even color with slightly more give than an apple
  • Pineapples: Heavy with a fragrant aroma, leaves are crisp and green
  • Strawberries: Firm with the cap still attached
  • Tomatoes: Fragrant earthy-smell at the stem, heavy for their size, no wrinkled skin
  • Watermelons: Richly-colored flesh, no white streaks, symmetrical, smooth surface. May have a bit of discoloration on one side from where it was sitting on the ground
How To Select the Freshest Fruits and Vegetables


  • Artichokes: Tight leaves and heavy for their size, leaves should squeak when rubbed together
  • Asparagus: Smooth, dark green, closed and dense tips
  • Beets: Firms, fresh stems, slender taproots
  • Bell Peppers: Smooth, heavy. When shaken you don’t hear many seeds rattling around.
  • Bok Choy: Dark green leaves with white stalks
  • Broccoli: Bright with compact heads, dark green, buds not opened
  • Cabbage: Dense, heavy head, red or green leaves
  • Carrots: Firm, rich orange color, firm roots
  • Cauliflower: Compact curds, ok to have leaves throughout. Avoid discolored or blemished heads.
  • Celery: Firm, unblemished green stalks
  • Corn: Husks are green and moist-looking, kernels underneath should be plump and juicy when slight pressure is applied with a fingernail
  • Cucumbers: Hard with a sheen green skin
  • Garlic: Firm plump heads without sprouts
  • Green Beans: Slender, firm beans that snap instead of bending
  • Leafy Greens: Crisp, deeply-colored leaves that aren’t wilted or slimy
  • Mushrooms: Check the bottoms to make sure they are unopened just under the cap and lighter in color
  • Onions: Dry, firm bulbs, heavy for their size
  • Potatoes: Firm without “eyes”, smooth
  • Spinach: Dark-green leaves without discoloration or wilting
  • Squash: Shiny, unblemished skin without dull or soft spots
How To Select the Freshest Fruits and Vegetables

Working in the Kitchen

18 thoughts on “How To Select The Freshest Fruits and Vegetables”

  1. This information is so good to know. How to store them as well. What not to put next to what. What goes in refrigerator and what can be left on the counter.

  2. This is very informative, Stephanie, could you believe, I did not know that each time, I come home the first thing I do is washing everything. Thanks so much for those valuable tips.

  3. I had no idea that washing them sped up molding. I’ve had this happen so many times and end up disappointed from going through all the trouble of going to the store. I love that you go through what to look for in each fruit and vegetable! That is so convenient 🙂

  4. what in-depth and useful info for us veggie and fruit lovers! It’s about the best thing we humans can put into our bodies to keep us healthy and vibrant… thanks for the thorough post!

  5. I have literally learnt so much from this post. I didn’t realise water speeding up moulding , or large fruit would have less flavour I thought this only applied to chillies. Interesting read thank you. Morgan x

  6. This is such a grat and informative post! I will definitely keep this in mind next time I go to the farmer’s market 🙂 However, about the tip to not buy any deformed or bruised veggies; I think this might not be the best approach as the outside will not always give an indication of the flavor (we’re not picking fruits to display but to eat right? haha) and not buying not attractive looking fruit and veggies only adds extra waste that can be prevented!!

    1. This is very true. I guess it’s more important to look to make sure they don’t look like they’ve been deformed because of bugs getting into them or bruised too badly that they aren’t good inside anymore. We often have deformed vegetables from our own garden!

  7. I never knew how to pick the freshest root vegetables. Now I know to keep a look out for any cracks. With the warmer weather here now I’ll be buying more fresh fruits and veggies so this is super helpful!

  8. I love all these great tips! There really is so much to learn about selecting produce but also in ensuring it doesn’t go bad too early etc. Thank you!

  9. I always have trouble deciding if I want to do ripe and ready or ripen at home. I am not patient enough, I think, so it’s great to have a list of what is always going to be as ripe as it can get.

  10. oh my very useful tips. I’ve learned a lot. usually I pick fruits and I don’t care if they will eat it or I know how to save and be practical to choice the best fruits ever.

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