Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Perfect Pick

Here's a quick guide to picking and storing common fruits, including their nutritional benefits.

Perfect Pick: Ripe peaches will have a fruity aroma with a background color that is yellow or cream. It should also give to pressure at the seams without being too soft. For future use, opt for those that are firm but not rock hard. Note that red blush on your peach's skin is a variety indicator and not an indication of ripeness.
Peak Season: June to September
Proper Care: Store firm peaches at room temperature in open air until ripe. Once ripe, toss into the fridge and consume within a couple of days.
Payoff: Vitamin C, Beta-carotene, Fiber, Potassium

Perfect Pick: Look for a pleasant fragrance with some softness at the stem end. The fruit should be free of bruises, although some brown discoloration (russeting) is fine. Firmer pears are preferable for cooking.
Peak Season: August to February
Proper Care: Ripen at room temperature in loosely closed paper bag. Refrigerate once ripe and consume within a couple of days.
Payoff: Fiber and Vitamin C (if consumed with skin on)

Perfect Pick: Vibrant green leaves with mild softness and a sweet aroma from the stem end indicates a ripe pineapple. Avoid spongy fruit with brown leaves and a fermented odor.
Peak Season: March to July
Proper Care: Store pineapple with a weak aroma at room temperature for for a couple of days until it softens slightly. Then refrigerate for up to 5 days.
Payoff: Bromelain compounds with anti inflammatory powers and helpful in digesting proteins

Perfect Pick: Choose those with glossy, taut, uncracked skin that's deep red in color. The fruit is past its prime if, when you gently press the crown end, a powdery cloud emanates.
Peak Season: August to December
Proper Care: Place in a cool, dry location for several weeks.
Payoff: Antioxidants shown to improve sperm quality thus boosting fertility

Perfect Pick: Plump and dry raspberries with good shape and intense, uniform color are ready for consuming. Be certain to examine the container for mold or juice stains at bottom (indicating crushed berries). Berries with the hull attached are a sign of under-ripe and overly-tart berries.
Peak Season: May to November
Proper Care: Refrigerate unwashed berries on a paper towel in a single layer for (ideally) no more than 3 days. Cover with a damp paper towel.
Payoff: Contains the antioxidant ellagic acid (possesses anticancer properties) along with 8 grams of fiber per cup

Perfect Pick: Look for bright red coloring all the way to stem without any blemishes. They should have a fruity smell and be slightly giving, but without mushy spots. Smaller strawberries usually have more flavor.
Peak Season: June to August
Proper Care: Keep unwashed in a single layer on a paper towel in covered container. Here, they will last 3-4 days in fridge.
Payoff: More Vitamin C than most other fruits

Perfect Pick: Tomatoes should be rich in color and free of wrinkles, cracks, bruises or soft spots. Ripe tomatoes will have some give, although too much softness is a sign of over ripe and watery fruit. During off season, choose Roma or Cherry tomatoes for more flavor.
Peak Season: May to August
Proper Care: Never store in fridge because cool temperatures destroy its flavor and texture. Instead, store at room temperature out of direct sunlight for up to a week.
Payoff: Lycopene, a carotenoid antioxidant that fights prostate cancer

Perfect Pick: Dense, symmetrical melons free of cuts and sunken parts are perfect for consuming. The rind should appear dull, not shiny, with a rounded creamy-yellow underside that shows where ground ripening took place. A light slap should produce a hollow thump.
Peak Season: May to August
Proper Care: Store whole in fridge for up to one week as the cold prevents the flesh from drying out and turning fibrous.
Payoff: Citrulline, an amino acid that's converted to arginine, relaxes blood vessels and improves blood flow. Also a good source of Vitamins C and A.

Perfect Pick: Firm apples with no bruising are your best choice. Worm holes do not negatively impact flavor. The smaller the apple the bigger the flavor.
Peak Season: September to May
Proper Care: Keep apples in a plastic bag in the crisper away from veggies. Here, they remain for several weeks.
Payoff: The pectin in apples help lower bad cholesterol

Avocado (Yes, avocado is technically a fruit!)
Perfect Pick: Firm without mushy spots. Should not rattle as this is a sign that the pit has pulled away from its flesh.
Peak Season: Year round
Proper Care: Place firm avocados in a paper bag at room temperature for a couple of days to ripen (through the release of ethylene gas). Place ripe avocados in the fridge.
Payoff: Cholesterol-lowering mono-saturated fat. Also used in the prevention of prostate and breast cancers.

Perfect Pick: Ripe bananas have uniform yellow skins or small brown freckles indicating they're at their sweetest.
Peak Season: Year round
Proper Care: Store unripe bananas on counter away from sunlight or in open brown paper bag. Refrigerate ripe bananas or freeze for use in breads and smoothies.
Payoff: Vitamin B6 which prevents cognitive decline

Perfect Pick: Plump, uniform berries. As with raspberries, check the bottom of the container for crushed or moldy berries.
Peak Season: June to August
Proper Care: Keep unwashed in airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week. Berries will spoil quickly when left at room temp for too long.
Payoff: Disease-fighting antioxidants

Perfect Pick: The stem end should have a smooth indentation. Should also have a sweet aroma with a slightly oval shape and good coverage of netting. The blossom end should give slightly to pressure. Avoid those with soft spots (indicating an over-ripe melon).
Peak Season: May to September
Proper Care: Store ripe cantaloupes in plastic in the fridge for up to 5 days (will begin to lose flavor after this)
Payoff: Loads of Vitamin C, offers protection against stroke

Grapefruit and Oranges
Perfect Pick: Should give slightly to a squeeze. Small imperfections won't impact flavor, but avoid those with large soft spots.
Peak Season: October to June
Proper Care: Store in refrigerator for a couple of weeks.
Payoff: Anticancer lycopene and 120% of daily Vitamin C in every cup!

Perfect Pick: Plump and wrinkle free grapes with firmly attached stems are ready for eating. Red grapes should be without a green tinge. Green grapes are sweetest and ripest with a yellow tinge.
Peak Season: June to December
Proper Care: Loosely store unwashed in a shallow bowl for up to a week. Grapes may also be frozen for a delicious snack.
Payoff: Resveratrol (a potent antioxidant found in red grapes that protects against cardiovascular disease)

Perfect Pick: Ready-for-consuming kiwi is slightly yielding to pressure. Avoid mushy, wrinkled or bruised kiwi
Peak Season: June to August
Proper Care: To ripen, store at room temperature or place in a brown bag with an apple. Place ripe kiwi in fridge in a plastic bag for up to a week.
Payoff: 20% more Vitamin C than an orange

Lemon and Limes
Perfect Pick: Brightly colored with thin skin, these fruits should feel sturdy but give ever so slightly when squeezed. Lemons should have no hint of green coloring.
Peak Season: Lemons are year round and limes are best chosen from May to October
Proper Care: Store at room temperature in a dark location for a week or refrigerate for up to two weeks.
Payoff: Phytonutrient liminoids which have anticancer and antiviral properties

Perfect Pick: Ripened mangoes will have red skin with yellow splotches and will give to pressure. Firmer mangoes with tight skin and green near the stems that are duller in color are for future use.
Peak Season: April to August
Proper Care: Ripen at room temperature until fragrant and giving. Ripe mangoes can be stored in fridge for up to 5 days.
Payoff: High in iron, Vitamins A and E, and phenols (antioxidant with anticancer properties)

Perfect Pick: A ripe papaya is beginning to turn yellow and is somewhat yielding to a gentle squeeze.
Peak Season: Year round
Proper Care: Eat ripe ones immediately or refrigerate for up to 3 days. Unripe papayas are greener and should be stored at room temperature in a dark setting until yellow splotches appear.
Payoff: Fiber, Vitamins C, A, E and K

Perfect Pick: Look for shiny, firm, plump, dark cherries. Avoid those with cracked or wrinkled skins.
Peak Season: May to July
Proper Care: Store cherries uncovered and unwashed in coldest part of refrigerator for up to 10 days.
Payoff: Offers protection against cancer and has been shown to reduce pain and inflammation in arthritis and diabetes patients

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