People are eating more fresh fruits and veggies than ever before.
In the past year, 74% of people have bought fresh vegetables, and 75% are eating more fresh produce than they did 5 years ago. What’s more, two-thirds are eating fruits and vegetables as a snack more than they did 5 years ago. As fresh produce lovers ourselves, we’re so excited to see these numbers!
Even with the rise of online grocery shopping and food subscription services, 79% of shoppers want to choose their own produce. This is a sign that consumers care about the quality of their vegetables—but how do you know you’re picking the freshest (and best) produce available?
There’s nothing worse than cutting your recently bought veggies at home only to find they’re rotten, overripe, or bland. Learn what you should be looking for when choosing Tomatoes, Bell Peppers, and Cucumbers so you only take home the freshest produce for your meals.
How To Choose The Best Tomatoes
Tomatoes are versatile and can add a punch of flavor (and extra nutrition) to just about any dish. They are great sources of vitamin C and vitamin A, in addition to other antioxidants.
There are many different types of Tomatoes, so picking the right size and shape will depend on what you want to use the Tomato for. Different Tomatoes are better suited for certain recipes, as an ingredient in salads, or for snacking.
To pick the freshest, most flavorful Tomatoes, there are certain characteristics you should look for—regardless of the type of Tomato you’re buying.
What To Look For When Picking Your Tomatoes
1. Smooth, unwrinkled skin
When choosing your Tomatoes, look for ones that have smooth, unwrinkled skin. Avoid Tomatoes that have large soft spots or shriveled skin.
2. Firm and plump
If you are planning to use your Tomatoes right away, look for ones that are ripe and ready to go. It should feel firm to the touch—Tomatoes that are no longer fresh will feel soft all over. Juicy, ripe Tomatoes tend to be denser so they will feel a little heavier than an unripe Tomato.
3. Vibrant color
Tomatoes come in many different colors, including red, green, yellow, orange, and purple. Avoid Tomatoes that are dull or pale, or show any signs of discoloration. Black or brown spots could mean the Tomato is starting to rot. When selecting Tomatoes, choose ones that have a vibrant, consistent color..
4. Sweet, earthy smell
Don’t forget to test the scent of the Tomato! Fragrance is an indicator of flavor so avoid purchasing Tomatoes that don’t smell like anything. Smell the Tomato up by the stem—it should have a sweet and earthy smell.
How To Buy The Best Bell Peppers and Sweet Peppers
Bell Peppers and Sweet Peppers are the perfect snack or addition to any meal thanks to their sweet and tangy flavors and satisfying crunch. Not only do they taste great, they are chock-full of vitamin C and antioxidants, making them nutrient powerhouses.
There are many different types of Sweet Peppers, but there are several key things you can look for in any Pepper to make sure you’re picking the freshest and most flavorful.
What To Look For When Buying Sweet Peppers
1. Fresh, green stem
A green stem is a good indication that the Pepper is fresh and hasn’t been sitting on the shelf for a long time.
2. Shiny, unwrinkled skin
A ripe Pepper will have a glossy appearance and smooth, unwrinkled skin. Avoid Peppers that have soft spots or shriveled skin.
3. Bright, vibrant color
Peppers come in all kinds of colors, including green, yellow, orange, red, and purple. Choose Peppers that are bright, vibrant, and consistent in color. Avoid Peppers with any signs of browning or discoloration as this could be a sign the Pepper is starting to rot.
4. Thick-walled and firm
Look for Peppers that are firm to the touch and feel relatively heavy for their size. Heftier Peppers are usually juicier and have thicker walls, making them more flavorful and crunchy.
How To Pick The Best Cucumbers
Cucumbers are the perfect vegetable for snacking on the go or adding crunch to a salad. They are super hydrating and are full of vitamin K and fiber.
There are different types of Cucumbers available to buy at most grocery stores, from Long English Cucumbers to Mini Cucumbers. When looking for the freshest, crunchiest Cucumbers, there are a few things you should keep in mind—regardless of type.
What To Look For When Buying Cucumbers
1. Firm to the touch
Soft spots on a Cucumber are a clear sign that the vegetable is at the end of its shelf life. Cucumbers with soft spots will likely have an ‘off’ flavor and odor. Pay attention to the tips of the Cucumber—these are often the spots that get soft first.
2. Consistent color
Cucumbers should be consistent in color all over. Yellow spots develop as a Cucumber starts to get over-ripe and might indicate that the inside is starting to rot. Look for Cucumbers with bright skin and avoid any that are dull or sweating.
3. Unwrinkled skin
Although Cucumbers have a slightly rougher skin than some other veggies, the Cucumber shouldn’t have wrinkly, shrivelled skin. This is a sign that the Cucumber has lost moisture after being in a high-temperature environment or in storage for too long.
How To Choose Fresh Vegetables: General Tips & Tricks
1. Use Your Senses
Use some of your other senses when picking your produce. Don’t just rely on how the vegetable looks—consider how it smells and feels, too. Firm produce without soft spots indicates it is fresh. Often the more fragrant it is, the more flavorful it will be.
2. Pay Attention To Color
Color is a good way to gauge the ripeness and freshness of the produce. Bright, vibrant colors are a good sign that the vegetable is full of phytonutrients, maximizing the nutritional value.
3. Buy Greenhouse-Grown Veggies
Some vegetables are only good at certain times of the year. Greenhouse-grown vegetables solve that problem—they are consistently fresh and perfect for eating year-round!
4. Consider Purchasing ‘Ugly’ Produce
While finding that perfect Tomato, Pepper, or Cucumber is often ideal, don’t be too quick to throw back “ugly looking” produce. Produce that is oddly shaped or has slight knicks or bumps may not look as beautiful, but “ugly” fruits and vegetables are still delicious and packed with nutrition. Plus, they often cost less!
Get Creative With ‘Imperfect’ Produce
There are many opportunities to use produce items that are slightly imperfect or nearing the end of their shelf life. These fruits and vegetables are perfect additions to soups, sauces, and roasted side dishes. By doing your part to reduce food waste, you can help the environment and save yourself some money!
Take Home Fresh & Flavorful Produce
Choosing the best vegetables at the store is easy once you know what to look for. Take the time to inspect each piece of produce you add to your shopping cart—not only will it help prevent throwing away produce at home, it will help you pick the most flavorful veggies too.
Check out the full guide to choosing the best produce below!