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Ripe Every Time

The world of agriculture is defined both practically and aesthetically by two extremes: those farmers whose aim is to grow the greatest possible amount of food at the lowest possible price, and those whose goal is to grow the greatest quality of food no matter what it costs. Both are necessary. It would be a poor state of affairs indeed if our grocery stores were filled with nothing but six-dollar-a-pound peaches, no matter how exquisite they might be. And, of course, the opposite is equally true: what good are all the peaches you can eat if none of them tastes good.

Fortunately if you know how to choose fresh produce, you can get the best of both worlds: good-quality fruits and vegetables that don’t eat up your whole food budget. Simply knowing the dos and don’ts of selection, storage, and preparation (see below) can go a long way toward ensuring your summer meals feature only the tastiest corn, melons, tomatoes, and peaches.

When It's Okay to Buy Unripe Fruit

Some fruits benefit from a day on the counter. Others don't.

One of the biggest mistakes people make when they’re shopping for fruit is assuming that what they see is the best they’re going to get. But many fruits will actually improve if you can just leave them alone for a day or two.

Generally these are known as climacteric fruits, and they include apples, apricots, avocados, bananas, cantaloupes (but not honeydews or watermelons), figs, guavas, mangoes, nectarines, peaches, pears, persimmons, plums, and tomatoes. You can buy all sorts of gadgets to help you ripen climacteric fruits, but all you really need is a paper bag and a spot on your counter. Place the fruit in the bag and wait a day or two. For nonclimacteric fruits, buy the ripest ones you can find.

How to Pick Produce

Think you know everything there is to know about fresh fruits and vegetables? Have you ever put a tomato in the fridge? We rest our case. Now, study up!