Chocolate, donuts and ice cream are all well and good, but sometimes, I like to plump instead for some of the desserts provided by Mother Nature. Whether you're talking blueberries and bananas or cherries and canteloupes, it's literally a fruitful decision to eat some fruit every now and again.
But the problem with fruit is that unlike your favorite candy or cookies, there's a waiting period before your fruit is ready to eat, not to mention a set expiration date which is nothing like a Twinkie or an Oreo. Even worse: fruit doesn't come with that info labeled on the side, so you just have to guess.
Luckily for us, the guys at Stack Exchange have decided to clue us in on the various secrets of fresh and ripe food, so you'll never have a mealy melon or bad pineapple ever again.
Stack Exchange user sarge_smith reveals that a ripe cantaloupe should be deceptively heavy, and if you draw close to the fruit, you should recognize a musky, sweet smell. "Also you should be able to press your thumb in slightly on the bottom and there shouldn't be a lip around the stem," sarge_smith reveals. If your cantaloupe smells too sweet, however, that's a sign it's overripe. If it's underripe, then you can just let that cantaloupe chill on your counter.
For this fruit, we've got two fruit experts on Stack Exchange to help us out, but the takeaway knowledge is that your chosen fruit should be firm rather than mushy, but if it's rock hard, you're also going to struggle. "An unripe pineapple won't smell like anything. An overripe pineapple will smell vinegary. A ripe pineapple will smell sweet," advises Satanicpuppy, while Sam Holder says that "you can test if a pineapple is ripe by trying to pluck out one of the leaves near the centre. If it comes out fairly easily then the pineapple is good to go. If it's hard to pluck, it's not yet ripe."
Stack Exchange user rumtscho says that as a general rule of thumb for good fruit, you should pay attention to the smell. If you smell even the slightest hint of mold or fermentation, then it's best to avoid, but apart from that, there are visual clues for a ripe strawberry. "A ripe strawberry will be red through and through. A strawberry picked underripe will be white or even slightly greenish at the top," this internet user continues, but warns "that not all red strawberries taste good".
For mangos, let's go to talon8, who's got a couple of things to look for in a great mango. First of all, color: keep an eye on your favorite kind of mango, and how it changes color over time. Then, there's the oft-repeated reminder of smell. "A ripe mango will smell sweet. Check near the stem end, the smell should be stronger there," this internet user says. Next, look out for the firmness of the mango: "Mangos, like peaches will soften as they ripen. Just as it starts to go from firm to soft, it is just about ripe." Finally, talon8 says that if you're waiting for a mango to ripen, do not put it in the fridge.
Stack exchanger Pulse tells us right off the bat that you're going to have to do things slightly different when you're talking about this fruit: "I don't believe there is a fool-proof way to determine 'ripeness' without taking a slice out of a watermelon." That being said, there are some general signs to look out for. "Ripe melons have a hollow sound when you tap or slap the outside," revealed Pulse, while if the point where the melon would have been on the ground (known as the 'field spot') is a yellow color, you're looking at a ripe watermelon. "If it's white, it's probably not." Don't forget: watermelons don't continue to ripen once picked, so there's no point in storing it with other fruits in an attempt to improve the situation. In fact, that may cause the watermelon to become "soggy".
On Stack Exchange, Iuls says that "a very fresh, ripe ear of corn will have a moist, green, unblemished husk". If you peel back this husk, the silk will be moist, and cling desperately to the kernels. "In the store, you may find that an ear of corn will have a slightly dried out husk, but if it's still green and the kernels look plump when the husk is pulled back, that ear's fine," Iuls reveals, but you should steer of any corn with "rotten-looking, off-smelling silk tops".
In a similar fashion to watermelon, Vecta says there's not a definitive way to tell if a pumpkin is ripe and ready to eat. But a ripe pumpkin should make a hollow sound if you were to thump it, and its skin should be "hard like a shell". Finally, be sure to check out the pumpkin stalk. "Make sure the vine that is attached to the pumpkin has died and turned brown and woody," says Vecta. "This is a good indicator that it is ripe and ready to be used."
If you're looking for the right pitted fruit for a delightful guacamole dip, then glasnt advises us to give your avocado a little squeeze: "If you can squish an avocado in your hand, it's much too ripe. Everyone else has had a squish of this avocado, and it's been manhandled." In general, you want an avocado that's still firm when you buy it, and will maintain a nice consistency after a few days: "still not completely soft to touch, but you can't play football with the thing anymore."
Ah, isn't that better? Whether you're having a snack, a nice fruit salad or a side to go with your meal, you've got the information to pick out the best quality fruit for the job. I hope this hasn't been a fruitless experience for you.