Fruit is a high risk, high reward game. A bright juicy strawberry is the epitome of summer but too often you spring for produce only to get home and find your fruit only looks good—if that. To help prevent that post-purchase regret, we've rounded up some tips for picking the ripest, most delicious summer fruit.
Don't judge a pineapple by its color—even a green pineapple could be perfectly ripe on the inside. When judging appearances, look for one that seems fresh with bright green leaves and a sturdy shell. But the real test is in the smell. Give the pineapple a whiff—it should smell sweet and like, well, a pineapple. If you can't smell anything at all, that particular one probably isn't ready yet; if it has a sharp, vinegar-y smell it's overripe. Once you've picked the best pineapple, eat it quickly, because they don’t ripen after they get picked.
The rule with strawberries is: If it's not bright red, it's probably not sweet and delicious—but the corollary doesn't apply. Just because a strawberry looks straight out of a staged summer catalog doesn't mean it will taste good. Strawberries continue to redden, but not ripen, once they've been harvested, so the color will change but not the flavor. How do you make sure you're not succumbing to the false advertising of a ruby red, unripe batch? Just like with pineapples, the proof is in the scent. Check for the pint that smells the sweetest and you should avoid wasting money on flavorless fruit.
Be it cantaloupe or honeydew or watermelon, the tough rind of melons makes them particularly tricky to get a read on. First, as with all fruit, make sure the visible parts are relatively blemish-free, even though you can't see what you'll actually be eating on a melon. Smooth melons, like watermelon or honeydew, should be matte rather than shiny (which usually indicates under-ripe fruit) and textured melons like cantaloupe should be golden orange underneath the "netting" (unlike the green one above). As with all fruit, check for a sweet smell to rule out unripe options. The final test comes down to a weigh-in. Ripe melons will feel especially heavy for their size, so pick through the pile and compare like-spheres to get the juiciest fruit. If it's a watermelon, go a step further and give the outer shell a tap. Ripe watermelon will sound hollow inside.
First of all, it matters what kind of cherry you're dealing with. If you're in the market for the pink-and-gold Rainier cherry, don't let the yellow coloring turn you off. However, when it comes to sweet red cherries, you want to look for highly-saturated, deep reds. If there's still a stem attached it should be bright green. And avoid cherries with wrinkles around the area where the stem meets the fruit.
The color of the skin will depend largely on which part of the peach receives the most direct sunlight, so don't wait for those yellow patches to turn red. However, peaches with green or white spots—check near the stems, in particular—won't be ripe for a few more days. And of course, give a (very light!) squeeze to confirm ripeness.
First, don't worry about color. Mangoes come in a range of colors that vary based on things that have nothing to do with quality. The only way to really tell if a mango is ripe is to see if it gives a little when you touch it.
As with mangoes, coloration is not particularly informative when it comes to judging an avocado. Fortunately, there's a clear and simple test for finding out if your avocado is ripe before cutting into it. All you have to do is pull off the stem nub or cap at the end of the avocado. If it falls off easily to reveal a green patch underneath, you're good to go. If it's hard to remove, the avocado likely isn't ripe yet, and if it leaves behind a brown patch the fruit is already past its prime. (Note: be prepared for angry looks for flicking the stems off avocados in the store).
You want deeply saturated, firm flesh with just a slight give when it comes to selecting a prime tomato. Get an idea of just how flavorful it will be by giving it a whiff—the best ones have a sweet, woody smell. And beware of any wrinkles, which indicate produce that has been left out at room temperature for too long.