I try to buy fresh vegetables a couple times a week. Anything that I know I won’t be using right away, I make sure it’s stuff that will last for a little while (cabbage, brussels sprouts, potatoes, onions) vs fresh goodies that need to be used within a day or two (cucumbers, tomatoes, berries), in those cases, I usually have a recipe in mind when I buy them.
But people are always asking me for my tips on how to pick out the freshest possible vegetables, and how to know when/where to buy them. So I thought I would go through my usual suspects that I regularly stock my crisper with.
Tomatoes — My favorite kind of tomatoes to buy are Romas. Heirlooms are only good when they’re in season, and Hot House tomatoes tend to have too many seeds*, unless you get them on the vine. But those tend to be an extra dollar a pound, so don’t get those unless they’re on sale. When you pick them, I like smaller cuter ones that feel very firm and don’t have any bruises. Make sure you don’t put them in the fridge because that will KILL the flavor. BLAH.
Cucumbers — I tend to always get English cucumbers. They’re the long and skinny ones that are sealed in the plastic. Try to pick out ones that are skinnier because like tomatoes, they have less seeds and the skin is thinner. If you can’t find English cucumbers try Persian cucumbers. They’re like a pickling cucumber’s skinnier cousin. Lots of flavor and the best when you’re making fresh pico de gallo.
Strawberries — I like strawberries that are smaller and the leaves are still very green. Make sure that the strawberries look vibrant red because when there’s any trace of white or green, that means that they were picked too early. My other favorite thing to do is (gently) flip the plastic shell upside down to see if anything is stuck to the paper. If anything is stuck, that means you have a rotten strawberry. SKIP.
Raspberries — My favorite kind of raspberries are ones that are taught. Those are usually the fresh ones. and I like them to be a very red color. If they’re too dark and/or loosey-goosey, that means they’re extra old. Don’t even bother making them work. Same, if there’s only like two sad containers left, that means all the good ones are picked through. Just save yourself the trouble and come up with a different recipe. Make sure to also flip the whole container upside down so that you can check for spoiled berries. Berries are one of the few fruits that I feel make a noticeable difference when you get organic. If you have the option, just get them. If you’re using them to garnish desserts etc. trust me, they make a HUGE difference.
Brussels Sprouts — I like sprouts that are very green and don’t have leaves flopping all over the place. Try to buy the individual sprouts where you can pick them yourself because the prepackaged ones are normally SCRAPS. I tend not to trust vegetables that are sold pre-washed in bags. (Unless there’s a huge sale) Plus I like ones that don’t have roots hanging from the bottom and brussels that are pretty small. They tend to have a sweeter flavor. Plus avoid the whiter ones and get the greener ones. They’re younger and packed with more nutrients.
Grapes — Avoid at all costs the grapes that have the stem already brown. Make sure that they’re green, because after a week or so being off the vine, the stems will turn, if they’re brown already that means they’ve been sitting there for ages. Plus if you can, grab a bunch and give it a shake, if a bunch of grapes are falling down, that means they’re extra old. Might as well have raisins. Try to get smaller ones, the bigger ones are in a weird limbo where there’s kind of a seed but kind of not. Either way, you’ll want to spit it out.
Broccoli — Call me crazy, but here is where I break all rules. I love buying the broccoli in a bag because that’s how you get all the florets. I can’t stand how tough the stem is in broccoli and unless I’m literally going to boil it, I don’t have any use of it. I’d much rather just pay $5 and be done with the whole thing. Try to get florets that are as green as possible and don’t touch the ones that have any yellow buds at all. Just don’t.
Potatoes — I love, love baby roasting potatoes. Pick out ones that haven’t been exposed to any water and are in the net bag. The ones in the plastic bag tend to have a more packaged taste in my experience. The baby ones are so naturally sweet you don’t even need any butter and minimal salt in the whole thing. Make sure skin is very smooth and there are no dark spots on the potatoes.
Seriously though, when if you’ve made the mistake of buying WAY too much fruit like I have many times in the past. Just wash, cut and throw them into a plastic freezer bag and use them for smoothies. They last for ages, and you’ll be grateful when you have last minute guests over for brunch.
*Seeds = Less flavor in your sauces and salads. It tends to water down your dressings.