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A Quick Guide to Choosing the Best Quality Vegetables

Posted on Thursday, August 19, 2021
by AMAC, D.J. Wilson

vegetablesEver bring home produce only to discover that it’s not all that fresh? Use this quick guide to help you select the very best vegetables when shopping!

Artichokes – Seek out heads that are compact, firm, and tightly closed. Leaves should be green, and not overly brown or separated. Splayed leaves indicate that this vegetable is not fresh.

Asparagus – You’ll want stalks that are plump and firm with tips that are close and compact. Asparagus comes in many colors – just make sure the color you select is bright.

Bell Peppers – Choose those with deep and vivid colors and a glossy sheen. Avoid those with blemishes or soft spots.

Broccoli – Select flower clusters that are green and compact and close together. Stems should also be firm. Avoid buying broccoli that has spots or open buds.

Brussels Sprouts – These must be firm and compact and heavy for their size. Choose ones that are dark green and avoid those with spots or leaves that are opening and falling off.

Cabbage – Choose heads that are heavy for their size but are not overly large. Cabbage should have a nice luster. Avoid cabbage that has discoloration or worm holes.

Carrots – Look for firm, plum carrots without the little strings on the bottom called rootlets. Select ones that are bright orange and smooth. Avoid those with white spots and cracks. If possible, opt for carrot bunches that have their leafy green tops intact.

Cauliflower – Select flower clusters that are compact and close together. White varieties should be pale. Avoid buying cauliflower that has spots.

Celery – Celery should have firm and tightly packed stalks with medium-thick ribs that are crisp and break easily. Celery should be green with no discoloration or spotting. The leaves should also be green and not wilted. If celery is rubbery, it is old.

Corn on the cob – Pay attention to the tassels (what sticks out of the top). They should feel slightly sticky to the touch and be brown. If it is dry or black, the corn is likely old. The husk should be bright green and tightly wrapped around the cob. Feel the outside of the cob. The corn inside should feel firm and uniform inside.

Cucumbers – Choose long, slender cucumbers that are dark or medium green. They should be somewhat firm and not be yellow or have soft spots.

Eggplant – This vegetable should be slightly firm but not hard. Avoid buying those with puncture marks or ones that are soft and mushy. The skin should be shiny, too, not dull.

Green Beans – They should be firm, crisp, and free of bruises and discoloration. Do not buy the ones that look swollen or have large pods.

Head lettuce – Select heads that are heavy for their size and avoid buying lettuce that is discolored, has soft rot, or is wilting. Bear in mind that the best heads are light and medium green in color and are compact and firm.

Mushrooms – Select ones with closed caps around the stems. They should be firm with a fresh and smooth appearance and look slightly plump. Avoid slimy mushrooms and those with unusually discolored gills.

Onions – Choose firm ones with dry, papery skins intact. Avoid those with emerging sprouts or brown or soft spots. They should feel firm and heavy for their size.

Peas & Sugar snap peas– Choose pods that are well-filled but are not cracked open. Fresh English peas should have bright green pods. Avoid buying those that look dry, limp, or have spots. Sugar snap peas should be firm with crisp pods.

Potatoes – Look for clean, smooth, firm-textured ones that are free of cuts, bruises, eyes and discoloration.

Tomatoes – (Botanically defined as fruit) They should be aromatic and firm, yet soft enough to yield to light pressure. Look for an appealing color, free of blemishes or dark spots. If overly soft and squishy, tomatoes may be overripe.

Tip: When choosing vegetables, your senses are your best resource. Your vision, touch, and sense of smell and taste are very important aids in helping you detect the best vegetables.

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2 years ago

All good advice, and I recommend that everyone learn how to grow a few greens or vegetables in our gardens or in pots. Using uncomplicated gardening practices can drastically reduce what we spend on food. Also, the harvest can be picked in its optimal condition, and only in quantities needed for the day. Veggies lose valuable nutrients, especially the beneficial antioxidants, after they’re cut and while in storage.

A popular grocery chain, loved by those who like organic produce, wraps all their produce in plastic, prolonging shelf life. No thanks; if I don’t grow it, I’ll buy fresh produce at farmers’ markets or from the grocer’s shelf. Plus, I don’t relish taking more plastic that can’t be recycled.

When buying potatoes, I choose the bag at the bottom of the stack, in the shade. Potatoes exposed to light turn green, and as this chlorophyll develops, so does a poisonous substance (an alkaloid called solanine). If the green skin reveals green flesh underneath, trash that potato. I’ve heard experts recommend keeping potatoes out of the refrigerator, but I keep them there, cool and dark, since I eat them less often than I used to. (And eat the skins, too, if they’re not green, for extra fiber and higher levels of nutrients.) Once it cools down, I’ll plant the few small older potatoes (‘Yukon Gold’) that have sprouted in the fridge. They’ll produce 7-10 pounds of new potatoes before freezing weather comes to USDA zone 7b.

Always check the cut ends of the stalks (artichoke, asparagus, broccoli, mushroom, etc.) for freshness. Old stalks dry out on the ends and the stems will wither if they’re old. Of course, the grocers can re-cut the ends, so check for sunken spots, discoloration (yellowing, browning), or withering. For the freshest produce, visit your local “growers only” farmers’ markets…

…Or grow your own. With cool fall weather approaching, lots of fresh greens (lettuce, arugula, the tender-leaved ‘Red Russian’ and dinosaur kales, collards, broccoli, spinach, Swiss chard, green onions, leeks, for starters) can be grown. I look forward to this time of the year more than I do tomato season—much more nutrition in greens—and these greens tolerate cold weather.

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