“Good Fruits and how to buy them” is not only a point-blank title for a book but also its authors’ blunt statement about people’s level of ignorance of an everyday know-how. Many consumers have a clearer set of logic for clothes shopping than for fruit picking, even though the latter would have greater impact on their lives. It doesn’t help that fruits these days are uniformly looking by design, giving shoppers the impression that there is no meaningful difference from one orange to the next. But according to the authors, who published the book in 1967, there are telltale signs of a sweet, ripen fruit even amongst the uniformity. The book teaches about more than 20 fruits available in the U.S., but remembering the characteristics of just seven that are common in Singapore would be a good start.
Avocado skins may be smooth or leathery or rough, depending on the variety. The authors found no relationship between skin texture and quality of the flesh. “Select heavy, medium-sized avocados with bright fresh appearance and which are rather firm or which are just beginning to soften.” Softening may be hastened by placing the fruit in a warm humid place. Inversely, softening may be delayed by keeping the fruit in cool dry place. But not below 5.5 degrees C, as low temperatures will turn the flesh black and ruin the flavour. Therefore, don’t buy avocado which the grocer had refrigerated.
Only buy bananas that were mature — stopped enlarging but not yet ripened — when picked. There is no way of telling whether a banana was mature if it is all green, so buy those with green tips, and the remainder a light yellow colour. A fruit picked before it was mature will never fully ripen. Banana should be kept at room temperatures until fully ripen. The best time for eating is when the fruit have speckles on their skin. Some people think speckled bananas have gone over the hill but it is actually a sign that fruit has reach a stage when it contains the lowest starch and highest sugar content. Bananas cannot be stored below 13 degrees C, which means they have no place in the fridge.
They look all the same on the rack so the trick is to feel them in your hands. A good orange should be heavy. Light-weight citrus fruits means “there is air where there should be juice.” An orange that is a little green is probably one that grew on an inside branch. Since it didn’t get as much sunlight as the ones that grew on outside branches, the flavour will be poor. If the oranges came from Florida a thin skin is a good index of quality. However, the Californian varieties are usually thick-skinned but still taste good.
Judge the grapes by their stems. Dry stems indicate that the fruit has been out of storage for two to three days when it should be kept at about 0 degrees C. I used to buy grapes that have fallen off the stems because it would saved me the trouble of plucking but it turns out to be a sign that the fruit has been held too long in storage. Avoid dull, lifeless, and sticky grapes because they have suffered from freeze burn.
Cantaloupes with whole or half stem attached are rated poor because they were picked before they fully matured. Melons in general ripe at full slip which means that the fruit is mature enough to detach itself from the vine without taking a part of the stem with it. This, however, does not apply to watermelons. Place purchased cantaloupe in room temperature, not in the refrigerator. A pleasant aroma indicates that the fruit has developed its full flavour. At this point it may be refrigerated before serving, but not for more than 48 hours.
As with other fruits, pineapples must be mature when harvested, indicated by a green and firm skin with eyes that are plump. Reject those that are purple and with eyes that are sunken and dull. Bruises, discolouration, watery eyes or at the base of the fruit are signs of decay. When pineapples are ripened, it developed full colour and aroma. Note that the fruit ripe from bottom to top, which means that it is sweetest in the lowest part. It is best to cut it lengthwise into wedges, so that everyone sharing the fruit gets both the sweet and the acidic ends.
This fruit has few external marks of quality; difficult even for an expert to select. But there are three things to watch out for. Firstly, select a melon that is uniform in shape. An oblong melon indicates an ovary this is not completely pollinated. Then select a heavy melon. The heavier it is, the more juice it contains. Finally, the underside of the melon, the part that rests on the ground, should be slightly yellow rather than pure white.