So do you know how to prepare fresh fruits and vegetables? Did you know that you should wash a cantaloupe before you slice it? Or that there are two kinds of peaches, and only one kind you should buy to serve fresh? This list of some popular fruits and vegetables will give you tips about buying, storing, and preparing them so you can easily add them to your daily diet. And sign up for my How to Prepare Side Dishes Email Class.
Apples should be firm and heavy for their size, with no soft or brown spots or indentations. Wash them well and just eat out of hand. To core them, cut in half, then in quarters, and using a knife make a circular cut around the seeds and seed casings. Make sure you get those little transparent seed casings out, because if you're cooking the apples in a pie or other recipe, the casings won't soften much and are unpleasant to bite. Or you can stand the apple up and cut along the core on all four sides; discard the core.
Cut in half and remove the pit. Apricots may be eaten skin and all. To peel, blanch for 10-20 seconds in boiling water and plunge immediately into cold water. The peel will slip right off. Most apricots are sold canned or dried.
Yes, avocado is a fruit! This is the way I prepare them. Wash, then cut in half lengthwise, going around the pit. Twist the two halves gently to separate. Some people then hit the pit with a knife to remove it, but I like to cut the avocado in half lengthwise again and gently pry out the pit. I find the fruit bruises less this way. Then just pull off the skin with your fingers and slice. Sprinkle with lemon juice if you aren't serving it immediately to stop enzymatic browning.
Blackberries, raspberries, boysenberries, gooseberries, and loganberries are all extremely perishable. Use them the day you buy them for best quality. Wash them very gently in cool water, sort them and place them on paper towels to drain. Use right away after they have been washed.
Blueberries are not as perishable as mosts other soft fruits. They are usually sold in 1 pint containers. Sort them carefully and make sure to pull off any attached stems. Wash and dry on paper towels, then eat or use in recipes.
To check for ripeness, gently press against the vine end of the melon (larger indentation). The melon should give gently, and should smell sweet. Make sure to wash the cantaloupe before you cut it, to prevent food poisoning from spreading with the knife. Gently scoop out seeds with a spoon and cut the fruit into wedges or use a melon baller. Because cantaloupe has been linked to Listeria and Salmonella outbreaks recently, I put the whole melon in a pot of water heated to 169 degrees F for three minutes. That kills the bacteria but doesn't affect the fruits' texture or flavor. Dry off and slice.
I feel that a cherry pitter is a wonderful tool. Be sure to pit the cherries over a bowl so you can make hear the pit click into the bowl and be sure that each cherry is successfully pitted. Look for heavy, firm cherries with a tight skin.
Cranberries are typically in season in October and November. These little fruits are super tart and usually used in baking and sauces. Look for plump fruits that are not wrinkled; sort through them and wash before using. Cranberries freeze very well, so buy a bunch in the fall and freeze them for use throughout the year.
Be sure to wash grapes very thoroughly before using. Look for bunches with the grapes held tightly to the stems. Make sure to buy seedless varieties and store covered in the refrigerator. Just pull off the stems and use. If you can find champagne grapes, you're in luck! These little jewels are full of flavor and color.
- Honeydew Melon
The melons should be heavy for their size and give slightly when pressed with your fingers. They should also smell sweet and, well, like honey. Wash them well before slicing and gently scoop out the seeds, then cut into wedges, or cut off the peel and slice. You can also use a melon baller for a fancier presentation.