If you're new to shopping for fresh produce, it can be hard to know what to look for. Here's a guide to 15 common fruits and veggies , and how to store your purchases so they stay fresh for as long as possible.
1. Apples - Look for deeply colored, naturally shiny fruits that feel heavy for their size. Gently squeeze the apple to see if it is firm, or if it feels mealy. Check for bruising. Wash apples before storing whole in the crisper drawer in the refrigerator. They should stay firm for about three weeks this way.
2. Bananas - Check for busing and avoid bananas with split peels. A slightly green bunch of bananas will ripen over the course of a few days, so if you want your bananas to last a little while, choose slightly green fruits free of any spots, like those pictured. Fully yellow bananas with or without a few brown spots on the peel are ripe and ready to eat right away. If the peel is extremely spotted and the stem attaching them to the bunch is slightly withered, the fruit is still good to eat, but is better put to use in banana bread or pancakes. Keep on the kitchen counter and/or on a banana stand that allows the bunch to hang. A banana will be good to eat for about 5 days as it ripens. If the fruit is going to go bad, they can be frozen and used for cooking. The peel will blacken, but the inner flesh will still be good to use.
3. Peaches - Ripe peaches should be firm throughout, but slightly soft to the touch. Look for a light stripe across the stem of the peach - this means the peach was allowed to ripen longer on the tree before being picked, and as a result, grew against the branch of the tree, creating the line. You can see this on a few of the peaches in this photo. Fruits that remained on the tree longer will be sweeter. They should be colored without green spots. Will be good for about five days kept whole in the refrigerator, but may also be kept on the counter in a paper bag for a few days to ripen.
4. Melons - Should be firm and heavy. Water melons should sound hollow when tapped, and will have a yellowish spot on one side where they sat on the ground. This indicates a properly ripened melon that was not picked too early. Can you tell which melons in the picture have a proper ground spot? Cantaloupes should be fragrant when ripe, and have a cream or golden rind with no soft spots. If the rind is green, the fruit is not ripe. Whole melons of both types will be good for about a week in the refrigerator, but will also last four or five days in a cool pantry. Wash the rind of both before cutting. Cut melon should be stored in a closed container in the fridge, and will last two or three days.
5. Grapes - Check the firmness of the fruit, individual grapes should be firm with tight skins. There should not be many mushy or squished grapes in the bunch, and they should be firmly attached to the stem. Look through the bag to make sure the grapes at the bottom are not moldy or crushed. Ripe grapes may have a slight grey or silvery sheen. Rinse before eating and keep in the refrigerator in a bowel or ventilated bag. They will last up to a week this way.
6. Bell Peppers - The color of the pepper should be uniform, and the fruit naturally shiny. In a fresh pepper, there should be no wrinkling of the skin, and no mushy spots. Avoid peppers that are split. If kept whole in a crisper drawer, they will last anywhere from one week, to ten days.
7. Broccoli - The stalks of this vegetable should be firm and feel crisp, avoid broccoli heads with stems that feel too flexible. The florets should not be flowering. Separate the florets with your fingers and check for yellowing. The head of the plant should be dark green throughout, possibly with a little purple. Keep the head whole in a refrigerator drawer, and the plant will last for a week or a little longer.
8.Cucumber - These should be uniformly green without yellow skin. Squeeze them gently, and they should be firm without feeling like the flesh of the cucumber is giving in. Keep whole anywhere in the refrigerator. They will last five days to about a week.
9. Tomato - Tomatos sould be uniformly colored and slightly squishy to the touch, not too hard. Check to see that the skin is smooth, and a fresh tomato will not have wrinkled skin. Should be kept at room temperature, and may be placed in a paper bag if they need to ripen. They will last about three days.
10. Avocado - Ripe avocados will be slightly soft to the touch, but not mushy, and not rock hard. They will ripen quickly on the counter at home, so it is best to chose a few avocados of varying degrees of maturity so while you are using one, another will last a couple days.
11. Strawberries - Look for a uniform color in all berries with green tops that look fresh. Check the bottom and all sides of the container to see if any berries are crushed or moldy. In the refrigerator, strawberries will last for three days whole. Remove any rotten berries from the container to avoid the spread of mold.
12.Plums - Feel the fruit for any bruising. Heavier fruits are juicier, and the plum should be firm but not too hard. Store whole in the refrigerator, and they will be good for about a week. The skin on a ripe plum should be silvery or grey, and may be powdery. Plums may be kept on the counter for a few days to allow them to ripen if need be.
13. Lettuce or other Greens - Leaves should be fresh and very crisp. Avoid wet and/or slimy leaves. A head of lettuce will last about five days in the refrigerator crisper drawer. Iceberg lettuce can last for up to two weeks. If you are purchasing pre-packaged lettuce, follow the expiration date to avoid eating spoiled leaves due to bacteria development.
14. Asparagus - The spears should be smooth without bruising or damage, and the tips should be closed. Trim the ends of the asparagus, and either keep them in a glass of water in the refrigerator, or wrapped in a damp paper towel placed in a placed in a plastic bag. The spears are highly perishable, so use within a few days, but they will last up to three when stored properly.
15. Oranges - Juicier fruits will be heavier for their size. Feel the skin of the orange to make sure it is smooth and free of large blemishes. The peel should not be coarse or feel spongy when squeezed. Oranges may be kept in a bowl on the counter, but they will only last about three days this way and will continue to ripen. When kept in the fridge, they will last up to two weeks.