Choosing Fruits and Vegetables



Listen to the Big Blend Radio interview with husband-wife food and wine expert team, Howard and Ruth Milstein. Howard is the wine expert and Ruth, who shares her fruit and vegetable tips below, is the author of the Gourmand award-winning recipe book Cooking with Love: Ventures into the New Israeli Cuisine.’

How to Distinguish Organic and Non-Organic Fruits and Vegetables  
Organic fruits and vegetables are usually less “beautiful” from the usual fruits and vegetables. However, the taste should be more concentrated. In fact it is very difficult to tell the difference between them, especially when the vegetables or fruits are cut or processed in some parts. Buy from a store you trust or if you are lucky, from the nearest farm. If they are boxed, turn the box and look at the bottom to see if there any bad or rotten pieces. They are usually found if the store carries the merchandise any more than day or two.

There are reasons for eating organic: fewer pesticides, more nutrients and a better taste. Pesticides can be absorbed into fruits and vegetables and leave trace residues. Many studies have shown that the qualities of organic products are more nutritious. As for taste, organic always tastes better! From my experience the vegetables taste amazingly fresh and the fruits are sweeter and keep longer.

Bottom line: Eating more fresh fruits and vegetables is the point. Organic is not a priority if you cannot buy organic produce. Buy non-organic fruits and vegetables and enjoy a full array of different types and varieties.

What to Pick and What to Avoid When Choosing Your Fruits and Vegetables
– Choose fruits and vegetables in season at the peak of their freshness and most readily available. This is when they taste their best and will be at their most nutritious. Always look for crisp, fresh looking vegetables that have brightly colored leaves. When you buy them in season they are fresh and inexpensive!

– Buy from a store you trust.

– Search for the fruits and vegetables you want until you have found them.

– Avoid vegetables with any brown patches, wilted leaves, bruised or pulpy flesh.

– Smell the fruits. Some fruits have a “ripe” odor, like cantaloupe and honeydew melon. If they have a sour smell they are beginning to spoil.

– Look for mold on the fruit; if you find any do not take it.

– Know the color and the shape. Check if the color is what it’s supposed to be. For example, don’t take a green or light-red strawberry. A strawberry that’s not a deep red color all over is not ripe. They won’t taste good and will not ripen after they are picked. Look for well-shaped fruits. For example, do not buy oval shape plums when they’re supposed to be a well-rounded shape.

– Pick the fruit up. If it’s heavy for its size then you have successfully found yourself a good piece of fruit!

– Avoid coarse, puffy and rough-skinned or wrinkled fruit when you buy fruits or root vegetables.
– When you pick fruits look for variety; firm to touch. Avoid those that are soft and meaty or shriveled and wilted. Most of the hard fruits will ripen at room temperature in 1-3 days.

– When you pick berries look for a full color, bright and fresh appearance.

– Select fruits and vegetables that are in a bin or open storage box not in bulk bags or boxes. These costs less and in the end some of them are often rotten.

– Feel the fruit but do so carefully. Firm fruits like apples and pears should feel firm but peaches and plums, for example, are “soft” fleshed fruits and should feel slightly soft. If you test it this way, do so carefully as not to damage the fruits!

– Look for bruises, cracks cuts and spots that indicate the fruit and vegetables have been roughly handled and damaged.

– If the fruit should have stems, look at the color. For example: the stems of the grapes should be beige to brown and a bit dried up. If the stems are green it means the grapes are not ripe and they will tend to be sour or tasteless. Do not buy them!

– Look for a stem cap if the fruit should have it; like strawberries.

– When you know what you are looking for the store owner or the worker will notice you and will be happy to help you if needed. Personally, sometime the owners let me know in advance “it’s not for you”.

– Buying and choosing the right fruits and vegetables gets easier. Have fun and be delighted that you are bringing healthy, nutritious food to your family table.

– Buy U.S grown fruits and vegetables.

Ruth Milstein




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Husband-wife food and wine expert team.

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