By Lia Huber
If you're clueless when it comes to picking out produce, use our how-to guide for choosing the freshest fruits and veggies at your local farmers market or grocery.
Apricots, Peaches, Plums
- Pick: Fruit that is firm, with a taut, unblemished skin and no signs of bruising or wrinkles.
- Store: Ripen at room temperature, until tender. Apricots can be kept for 2 days, maximum. Once plums are ripe, refrigerate up to 3 days.
- Use: Cook with sugar (1 pound of fruit per 2 cups sugar) on the stove until thickened for a delicious jam.
- Tip: Vitamin A-rich stone fruits work with savory dishes; try sauteing, grilling, or roasting them to serve with duck, chicken, or pork.
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Blackberries and Raspberries
- Pick: Plump, juicy berries with a shine (blackberries) or luster (raspberries), without any trace of mold or discoloration.
- Store: If eating within 24 hours, store at room temperature; otherwise, wrap loosely in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 2 days. Wash just before using.
- Use: Blackberries and raspberries are delicious raw or in baked goods, but they're also a great addition to savory dishes.
- Tip: To freeze antioxidant-packed blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, or cherries, wash and let dry completely, then place them in a single layer on a tray in the freezer until solid. Transfer to a zip-top bag and store in the freezer.
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- Pick: Fruit with a glossy sheen and deep, rich color.
- Store: Refrigerate in a plastic bag for up to 2 days.
- Use: Pitted sweet cherries are delicious in yogurt, desserts, or even as a sweet topping for grilled meat.
- Tip: To pit several cherries at once, place them in a zip-top bag and roll over them gently with a rolling pin so they split. Remove from the bag, pluck out pits, and enjoy this antioxidant-rich fruit.
- Pick: Plump, firm berries that aren't shrunken or wrinkled. The color should be rich with a powdery white cast.
- Store: Refrigerate, covered with plastic wrap, for up to 6 days.
- Use: Blueberries are delicious as a cereal topping, stirred into yogurt, or baked into a cobbler. And their intense flavor makes for a great frozen dessert.
- Tip: Gently rinse fiber-packed berries by dunking them in a bowl of cold water just before using; drain in a colander.
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- Pick: Berries with a bright red color throughout and a healthy, green stem; size will vary depending on the variety.
- Store: If eating within a few hours, keep at room temperature; otherwise, wrap loosely in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 2 days. Wash just before using.
- Use: Slice strawberries to top shortbread or ice cream, or simply serve them whole.
- Tip: For an easy dessert full of vitamin C, drizzle sliced berries with balsamic vinegar or a splash of Champagne.
- Pick: Ears with husks that feel taut against full, well-defined kernels. Take a peek at the kernels: They should be plump (not flat).
- Store: Keep corn in a plastic bag in the fridge for up to 2 days.
- Use: Corn can be steamed, boiled or grilled, or simply cut from the cob and tossed into salads raw.
- Tip: Snap the corncobs in half before slicing off the kernels (full of potassium) so you can prop the cut side of the cob solidly on the cutting board.
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- Pick: Small but heavy squash with glossy skin.
- Store: In a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- Use: All varieties are delicious raw, steamed, sauteed, or grilled. Pattypan and crookneck squashes have a milder taste that pairs well with fresh herbs. The bright orange blossoms from squash plants are also delicious when added to a stir-fry.
- Tip: Grate too-large zucchini into soups, sauces, or muffin batter to get a quick a boost of vitamins A and C.
- Pick: Plump tomatoes with fully developed color that yield to the touch without being mushy.
- Store: Ripen at room temperature, stem-side down. Never refrigerate.
- Use: Choose slicing tomatoes like Brandywine or Mortgage Lifters for salads and sandwiches, and the firmer-fleshed Amish Paste or San Marzano for sauces.
- Tip: Cut overripe tomatoes in half and smear the lycopene-rich flesh on toasted bread drizzled with olive oil for a quick bruschetta.
Health.com: 10 tasty tomato recipes
- Pick: Smaller beans, which are typically most tender, and look for ones that are firm, with a slight sheen and no wrinkles.
- Store: Rinse, air dry, and store in a ventilated plastic bag in the fridge for up to 5 days.
- Use: Beans can be steamed or quickly boiled until crisp-tender and served warm. For salads, cook them a bit longer and plunge into an ice bath.
- Tip: If your beans are larger and a bit tougher, try braising them. To braise: Saute fiber- and folic acid-rich beans in olive oil, then add wine or broth to the pan, cover, and simmer until tender.
- Pick: Firm, rounded cukes, with bright to dark green skin. Avoid any with soft spots or shriveled ends.
- Store: Keep them in loose plastic bags in the fridge for up to 3 days. Wrap leftovers in plastic or a sealed container.
- Use: Slice and dice to give salads a crunch or puree for cold soups or dips. Remove the seeds by cutting lengthwise and scraping them out with a spoon.
- Tip: Buy unwaxed cucumbers, so you can eat the skin (full of fiber and vitamins A and C) without eating the waxy coating.