South Shore Breaker
Getting it ripe — selecting the best fresh fruit
Everyone has been there before. You've stood in the grocery store in front of the fresh fruit. You've squeezed it, you've shaken it and you've tapped it — all in an effort to determine if it is ripe or not. But are we doing it correctly? What is the best way to determine if fruit is ripe and what do we do if it is not?
Luckily, Ann Marion Willis knows just what to do. She's a registered dietitian who works at the Superstore in Glace Bay, Sydney River and North Sydney. When asked if it is alright to eat unripe fruit or whether it could cause digestion issues, Willis said this depends on the fruit. Some unripe fruit will just taste unappealing or have a less than ideal texture, but some may cause some gut distress, depending on sensitivity or amount eaten.
Remember, a little green on your banana is fine for most people, she noted.
Most fruits have specific tips that may include smell, colour or textural changes to indicate ripeness, explained Willis. Some fruit continues to ripen once picked, such as bananas, pears, apples and melons. Others
stop ripening at the time of harvesting, including berries, grapes and pineapple.
Some of Willis' top tips for checking for ripeness for common favourites are:
• Avocado: gently press on the skin. You should feel a
slight yield on one that is ready to eat. You can also remove the stem. If the area revealed is bright green, it's ripe.
• Figs: These do not ripen once picked, so choose one that is soft, though not squishy.
Be gentle when testing.
• Honeydew: This should feel firm and heavy and should feel solid when shaken. There should be no scent. Where the stem was attached should be just slightly soft.
• Mango: Select firm, smooth unblemished fruits that yield to gentle pressure.
• Pineapple: Use your nose! This is one fruit that should have a strong, sweet smell at the base. Avoid soft spots and look for fresh, green leaves.
If you do purchase a fruit that is not quite ripe, you can help it ripen, depending on the exact fruit. Remember, that not all fruit ripens after harvesting either, so you want to be sure to select those ones properly at the store, suggested Willis.
When it comes to purchasing fresh fruit in the first place, Willis cannot recommend enough the idea of speaking to your produce department colleagues.
They are a wealth of knowledge when it comes to selecting, storing and even using your produce. “I've picked up so many valuable tips and tricks over the years from these individuals and they're always my first go-to for questions,” said Willis.
But for those fruit that do ripen after picking, there are a few things to help them along.
First, the produce drawers in your fridge actually do have a purpose, said Willis. The fruit and vegetable sides allow for high or low humidity, to keep produce from ripening or rotting too quickly. Most produce should be kept in the fridge, although some items you may wish to ripen on the counter first before refrigerating.
Some fruits, like apples, tomatoes and bananas give off ethylene gas, which can ripen or rot other produce quicker than usual. You may want to keep them separate from more fragile produce, she suggested.
If you'd like to ripen fruit faster, place it in a paper bag in the fridge or on the counter, explained Willis. Since there are variables that can influence how long this process takes, check one to two times a day to see if it's ready for consumption. Add an apple or banana to speed things up even more, she recommended. Avoid plastic bags or airtight containers for this, as they can trap moisture and lead to mould.
Missed your window of ripeness? Fear not, Willis has a few ideas for overripe fruit to help avoid food wastage.
First, ensure there is no mould and discard it if there is any present. Next, decide whether you'd like to use this in a fresh item, a baked good or freeze it for later. Wash, dry if using for baking or freezing, then cut as desired. Smoothies, oatmeal, chia pudding, crisps and cobblers and muffins are all great options for overripe fruit, said Willis.
For fresh or unheated uses like in chia pudding, consume as soon as possible, as the fruit will continue to spoil quickly, she added.
“I'm definitely a huge fan of chia jam and chia pudding, especially when it comes to my overripe, end-of-season berries. I use this on toast, stirred into yogurt or oatmeal, even in jam cookies,” said Willis.
• Book an appointment with the Atlantic Superstore Dietitian team: www.bookadietitian.ca
• Find online workshops and group coaching at: www.dietitianwebinars.ca