Picking Out The Best Produce

Veggies
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Avocado

What to look for: Dark, tender skin, that’s not mushy. Avocado should free of soft spots and indentations. Note, coloring doesn’t always indicate ripeness. It ripens after it’s been picked, so you can buy more firm ones and ripen them at home in about 4-5 days. Placing them in a paper bag will speed up the process.

Availability: Year-round. Peak season varies by type, with Haas available April through October.

Storage: Keep avocados at room temperature if using soon. Keep ripe avocados that you don’t want to use immediately in a produce bag in the refrigerator, where it will last 3-5 days.

Varieties & Uses: Available in a number of varieties, with Hass being the most popular. Hass variety can have higher oil content and more tough and durable skin, which makes it ideal for shipping.

Bell Pepper

What To Look For: Shiny, firm, unblemished skin, and heavy for its size.

Availability: Available year-round, but peak season is July though September.

Storage: Refrigerate bell peppers for 1-2 weeks.

Varieties & Uses: Widely available in four colors - green, yellow, orange, and red. They all taste similar and can be substituted for each other, but green peppers tend to be more mild and bitter, while red peppers are sweeter. Yellow and orange peppers are sweeter than green, but not as sweet as red.

Broccoli

What to look for: Small, firm, dark green buds. Yellowing indicates it’s past its prime.

Availability: Year-round, though peak season is October through April. Also available frozen.

Storage: Keep broccoli in produce bag in the vegetable drawer of your refrigerator. Lasts about 10 days.

Uses: Eat raw in salads. Sauté, steam, or roast and eat alone or with rice, pasta, or meat. Season cooked broccoli with garlic, salt, pepper, and/or lemon juice.

Brussel Sprouts

What to look for: Firm texture, bright green color, and tight-fitting outer leaves.

Availability: Year-round, but September through May is peak season. Also available frozen.

Storage: Refrigerate Brussels sprouts for up to 1 week.

Uses: Roast Brussels sprouts along with other root vegetables, like potatoes and carrots, or saute them in bacon fat.

Carrots

What to look for: Plump, firm root with bright orange color and smooth skin, without cracks.

Availability: Year-round, but fall is peak season.

Storage: Refrigerate carrots for 2-3 weeks.

Varieties & Uses: Carrot varieties include traditional long orange carrots, baby carrots, purple carrots, red carrots, and white and yellow carrots, which are the sweetest. Add to salads, soups, and stir-fries. They also lend well to desserts, like carrot cake.

Cauliflower

What to look for: Compact, firm, white to creamy white heads, and green leaves. Yellowing or discoloration indicates cauliflower is past its prime.

Availability: Year-round, though peak cauliflower season is September through January. Also available frozen.

Storage: Keep cauiflower in produce bag in the vegetable drawer of your refrigerator. Lasts about 10 days.

Uses: Eat raw in salads. Sauté, steam, or roast and eat alone, with other vegetables, or rice. Season cooked cauliflower with garlic, salt, pepper, and/or Parmesan cheese.

Celery

What to look for: Firm, light-to-medium green stalks. Wilted leaves, discoloring, and flimsy stalks indicate celery is past its prime.

Availability: Year-round.

Storage: Keep celery in produce bag in the vegetable drawer of your refrigerator. Lasts up to 3 weeks.

Uses: Add celery to stir-fries, soups, and salads, or use as a base for soup or stalk.

Corn

What to look for: Green, tightly wrapped husks with a moist stem. Kernels should be firm and closely spaced.

Availability: Year-round. Peak season is May through September. Also available frozen and canned

Storage: Keep ears of corn in produce bag in the vegetable drawer of your refrigerator. Lasts 1-3 days.

Uses: There are six major corn varieties, including sweet and popcorn. Boil or steam a fresh sweet ear and eat alone with butter, salt, and pepper. Add canned or frozen to Mexican dishes or dishes with other vegetables or even beans.

Garlic

What to look for: Firm, tightly wrapped, white bulbs. Bulbs opening or breaking apart indicates garlic is past its prime.

Availability: Year-round, also available dried, minced, and powdered as a salt.

Storage: Keep garlic in the pantry. Whole bulbs will last for a month or two, while unpeeled individual cloves will last about a week.

Uses: Add garlic to almost any food as you cook, such as pasta, vegetables, soups, or sauces.

Jalapenos

What to look for: Firm, vibrant dark green, and smooth skin. Softness and wrinkles indicate jalapeno is past its prime. Occasionally, it will turn red, orange or yellow when fully ripened.

Availability: Year-round.

Storage: Keep jalapenos in produce bag in the coldest area of your refrigerator. Lasts up to 2 weeks.

Uses: Slice or dice and add to salsas, nachos, corn, and beans. Cooking and removing the seeds and white “ribs” help reduce the heat.

Mushrooms

What to look for: Fully intact caps that are dry and firm with sweet aroma.

Availability: Year-round, though the peak season for most varieties is fall and winter.

Storage: Refrigerate mushrooms in brown paper bag for up to 1 week. Note, the crisper draw is too moist for mushrooms.

Uses: White or button mushrooms are the most commonly sold and have a light, earthy flavor. Add raw to salads, or sauté with butter or olive oil and add to sandwiches, pizzas, pastas, or eggs.

Onions

What to look for: Bulb that is firm to the touch and heavy for its size.

Availability: Available year-round, but spring and summer are peak seasons.

Storage: Store onions at room temperature for 1-2 weeks.

Varieties & Uses: Yellow onions appear in a variety of cuisines and are the most commonly sold. Add to sautes or roasts, caramelize over low heat, or make French onion soup.

Potatoes

What to look for: Smooth, firm root with no bruises or discoloration.

Availability: Year-round.

Storage: Keep potatoes in a cool, dry place. After a few weeks, they might sprout white bulbs. Some believe these sprouts should not be eaten, while others simply scrub them off before consuming.

Varieties & Uses: Russet or Idaho potatoes are the traditional large brown variety used for baking, roasting, sauteing, shredding, or mashing. Roast them, bake them, fry them, mash them, saute them, steam them, or boil them. There's no wrong way to cook a potato!

Spinach

What to look for: Rich green leaves. Avoid wilted or wet-looking leaves.

Availability: Available year-round, but spring and fall are peak spinach seasons.

Storage: Refrigerate spinach wrapped in damp paper towel or non-airtight container for a few days.

Uses: Make a salad, add to pastas, or saute and serve as a side dish.

Squash

What to look for: Firm, glossy, bright yellow unblemished skin and heavy for its size. Bigger ones can be too bitter.

Availability: Year-round, though peak season is May through August.

Storage: Keep squash in produce bag in the vegetable drawer of your refrigerator. Lasts about 5 days.

Uses: Add squash to almost any food as you cook, such as pasta, vegetables, soups, or sauces.

Tomatoes

What to look for: Fruit heavy for its size, bright in color, and firm.

Availability: Year-round, but June through September is peak season. Canned tomatoes are more readily available year-round and are canned at peak ripeness.

Storage: Store tomatoes at room-temperature for 1-2 weeks.

Varieties: Roma or Plum tomatoes varieties are the most commonly sold tomato in grocery stores. Make pasta sauce or salsa, add to sandwiches or salads, or cut slices and add mozzarella and basil for a Caprese salad.

Zucchini

What to look for: Firm, glossy, green unblemished skin and heavy for its size. Bigger ones can be too bitter.

Availability: Year-round, though peak season is May through August.

Storage: Keep zucchini in produce bag in the vegetable drawer of your refrigerator. Lasts about 5 days.

Varieties: Sauté, roast, or bake alone or with other vegetables. Also add zucchini to soups, salads, or baked goods, such as breads and muffins. Its delicate flavor does well with minimal seasoning.