Selecting and Storing Fruits

Learn how to select the ripest fruits while at the grocery store and how to best store them once you get them home. Also, we’ll cover when each is in season so you know when to expect the best prices.

Fruits are packed with some great nutrients your body needs. It’s always a great idea to keep a bowl of fresh fruit on the counter or table so they are easy to see and grab when someone wanders into the kitchen looking for a snack. And you can use them in lots of great recipes.

Buying fruits at the right time of year means you will get the best flavors for the lowest prices. In most cases, you can buy fruits a few days early of their peak ripeness and allow them to ripen at home before use. If you choose to buy them at or past peak, you should use them right away – within a day or two. Seasons run as follows:

Spring – mid-March to mid-June

Summer – mid-June to late September

Fall – late September to mid-December

Winter – mid-December to mid-March

Remember these seasons apply to the northern hemisphere. While we have winter, southern hemisphere countries are producing great summer fruits of their own, so fruits are commonly available all year. See our other related articles for selecting and storing vegetables and meats.

Apples Selecting: Pick very firm apples. Skin should be free from bruises or, cuts or holes.

Storing: Store apples at room temperature for up to a week or up to six weeks in the refrigerator. When serving apple slices, remove core and rub cut surface with lemon juice to prevent discoloration.

Using: Raw apples are wonderful sliced and added to salads. Add them to rice or grain dishes for some extra crunch and flavor. Cooked apples are perfect in cakes, pies or tarts, or as part of a sauce with poultry and pork.

Season: fall

Apricots

Selecting: Pick deep yellow fruit with a pink blush and no sign of green. They should be plump and firm with tender, velvety skin.

Storing: Best stored and eaten at room temperature, but you can refrigerate. Use within a day or two. Poach under-ripe fruit in sugar and water to soften and bring out the flavor.

Using: Eat raw or use in salads or sorbets. Apricots are good cooked for jams and tarts.

Season: spring, summer

Bananas

Selecting: The skin should be a rich yellow color with a few brown specks. Buying them green is ok if you won’t eat them the first day or two, but they tend to brown quickly if picked while still very green.

Storing: Store at room temperature. A bunch will last about a week, especially if hung by the stems so the actual fruit doesn’t sit on a table or counter. Freeze overripe bananas for later use in breads and muffins.

Using: Spray the banana with lemon juice after slicing to prevent discoloration. Use overripe bananas in banana bread or muffins. Brush bananas with orange juice and broil for a dessert.

Season: fall, winter

Blackberries

Selecting: Berries should be firm, plump, and fully colored.

Storing: Store at room temperature or refrigerate in a single layer. Use within a day or two. Wash when ready to use.

Using: Good raw in desserts, salads, and smoothies. Use cooked in cobblers, crisps, jams, muffins and pies.

Season: summer

BloodOranges Selecting: Skin should be a universal deep red color. Choose plump fruit that feels heavy for its size.

Storing: They will keep at room temperature for up to several days.

Using: Peel and eat the insides or add the fruit to salads.

Season: winter

Blueberries Selecting: Berries should be firm, plump, and fully colored. Stay away from soft berries.

Storing: Store at room temperature or refrigerate in a single layer. Use within a day or two. Wash when ready to use.

Using: Eat raw by themselves or in fresh fruit desserts, salads, and smoothies. Blueberries are also great in cobblers, crisps, jams, muffins and pies.

Season: spring

Cantaloupe Selecting: Should be straw-colored with minimal or no green beneath the raised netted surface. Should yield to slight pressure at the stem end, and the stem should be a clean indentation. Parts of the stem remaining may indicate that it was picked too soon and will not be peak taste. Should release a sweet scent. Avoid melons with a pronounced yellow color or moldy aroma that indicates over-ripeness.

Storing: Store at room temperature for 2 to 3 days. Refrigerate after cutting. Remove seeds and skins.

Using: Best at room temperature by itself or in salads, salsas, smoothies, and sorbets.

Season: spring, summer

Casaba Melon Selecting: These teardrop-shaped melons should have a deep yellow skin color and no dark or moist patches. Skin is coarse and has a thick, ridged rind; flesh is creamy white to yellow.

Storing: Store at room temperature for 2 to 3 days. Refrigerate after cutting. Remove seeds and skins.

Using: Best at room temperature by itself or in salads, salsas, smoothies, and sorbets.

Season: spring, summer

Cherries

Selecting: Stems should be green and flexible. Avoid soft spots, bruises, and splits. Red cherries are ripe when deep red. White and yellow varieties are ripe when flushed with pink.

Storing: Will keep at room temperature for a few days, or longer in the refrigerator. Remove stems and pits just before using. Once the stem is removed, the cherry will deteriorate rapidly.

Using: Use sweet varieties in salads, smoothies, and sorbets. Use in baking in compotes, cobblers, pies, and sauces for poultry.

Season: spring, summer

Clementines Selecting: Pick ones that are heavy for their size.

Storing: They will keep for up to a month in the refrigerator.

Using: Excellent in green salads. Great as a side to poultry.

Season: fall, winter

Cranberries Selecting: Look for cranberries that are shiny and not shriveled. A brown or a deep red color signals freshness. A good, fresh berry should be hard and bounce if dropped on a hard surface.

Storing: They'll keep for up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator. Sort and rinse cranberries in cold water before using.

Using: Cranberries are unpleasantly tart on their own, but they're excellent for flavoring a sauce, adding to stuffing or in cakes and breads.

Season: fall, winter

Crenshaw Melon Selecting: Have a strong aroma when ripe. Should have a speckled, green-yellow ridged rind and orange-pink flesh.

Storing: Store at room temperature for 2 to 3 days. Refrigerate after cutting. Remove seeds and skins.

Using: Best at room temperature. Good for breakfast, salads, salsas, smoothies, and sorbets.

Season: summer

Currants, red, black or golden Selecting: Firm, plump, fully colored berries.

Storing: Store at room temperature or refrigerate in a single layer. Use within a day or two. Wash when ready to use.

Using: Toss in fruit desserts, salads, and smoothies. Good cooked in cobblers, crisps, jams, muffins, and pies.

Season: spring, summer

Figs, Black Mission(Kadota) Selecting: Firm fruit that yields to slight pressure. Color varies according to variety from pale green/yellow to almost black. Sweet aroma.

Storing: Will keep at room temperature for a few days, or longer in the refrigerator. Skin, seeds, and flesh are edible.

Using: Best at room temperature. Complement cheese, green salads, strong meats and ham.

Season: spring, summer

Grapes, red, green, black Selecting: Select firm, plump grapes. Grapes should not fall off stems when shaken lightly. Color varies according to variety, but look for universal color and shape.

Storing: For easy snacking, wash thoroughly and store in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Using: Toss grapes into salads or serve them along with cheese and nuts.

Season: summer, fall, winter (red grapes are fall and winter only)

Grapefruit, white, ruby red Selecting: Pick grapefruits that are heavy for their size, firm and thin-skinned. Skin color varies from yellow to ruby red.

Storing: They'll keep at room temperature for a week to 10 days or 2 to 3 weeks in the refrigerator.

Using: Cut in half (optional: sprinkle with sugar) and spoon out segments for a breakfast fruit. Add raw grapefruit to green salads or in fruit salsas. Good with fish.

Season: fall, winter

Guava Selecting: Soft, pale yellow skins with pink flesh. Sweet aroma. Smaller ones are best. Choose those that give to gentle palm pressure but have no spots.

Storing: Store at room temperature or refrigerate. Use within a day or two. Refrigerate ripe fruit in a plastic or paper bag for up to a week. Guavas are very delicate — handle with care.

Using: Cut in half and remove flesh with a spoon. The seeds are edible. Use for dessert sauces, juice, sorbets. Good with a spritz of lime juice.

Season: summer

Honeydew Melon Selecting: Very smooth skin means a tasty melon. Skin should be a greenish color. A yellow color indicates that fruit is not yet ripe. Flesh is light green and orange-colored. Avoid large melons with bruises, cuts or punctures in the rind.

Storing: Unripe whole melons may be kept in a paper bag at room temperature for 2 to 3 days. Ripe melons should be wrapped in plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 5 days.

Using: Best at room temperature. Good for breakfast.

Season: summer

Kiwi

Selecting: Pick a kiwi that yields to slight pressure but doesn't have soft spots.

Storing: Store at room temperature for 3 to 5 days to ripen. Refrigerate ripe kiwis in a plastic bag for 2 to 3 weeks.

Using: The entire fruit is edible including the skin, but many people peal the skin and slice the fruit. Spread the green flesh over your meat before cooking to tenderize and add a tangy flavor. Do not use in Jell-O. Use raw atop a fruit tart or in fruit salads.

Season: fall, winter

Kumquat Selecting: Choose thin-skinned, orange fruit between 1 and 2 inches long. Look for one with green leaves still attached.

Storing: Keeps at room temperature for several days.

Using: Eat raw, or puree it with a sauce for poultry.

Season: fall, winter

Lychee Nut Selecting: Small aromatic pulpy fruit in a thin, rough shell; has a sweet edible pulp and a large seed. About 1 inch in diameter. Ripe fruit has a pink or red blush on its skin.

Storing: Keep at room temperature for 3 to 5 days, longer in the fridge in a plastic bag.

Using: Starting at the stalk end of the fruit, cut through the rough, brittle skin with a small knife; it should peel off cleanly. Eat raw, dried, preserved or canned. Often poached in syrup.

Season: season

Mangoes Selecting: If it looks plump and round around the stem, it's ripe and it should smell fruity. Yellow-red skin. Should yield to light pressure. Smaller ones are best.

Storing: Keep at room temperature, where fruit will continue to ripen.

Using: Remove skin and pit. Work over a bowl to save the juice. Toss in salads, salsas, smoothies, and sorbets. Mangoes are good for chutneys and relishes.

Season: summer

Nectarines Selecting: Fruit should be plump with a sweet aroma. Avoid hard, shriveled, or green fruit. The skin should be smooth.

Storing: Will keep at room temperature for a few days, or longer in the refrigerator.

Using: Best at room temperature. Good as a cereal topping, in salads, salsas, smoothies, and sorbets.

Season: spring, summer

Oranges

Selecting: Look for firm, thin-skinned oranges for juicing and thick-skinned oranges for eating.

Storing: Store at room temperature for up to one week, or even longer in the refrigerator.

Using: If grating the zest, avoid the white pith, which tends to be bitter. Raw orange slices make a wonderful addition to salads.

Season: fall, winter

Oranges, Mandarin (Satsuma)

Selecting: Pick ones that are heavy for their size. Look for a greenish-orange color.

Storing: They will keep at room temperature for several days and a week or more if refrigerated.

Using: Loose skin allows them to be peeled easily. Sweet and seedless, they're great in fruit and green salads and good with poultry.

Season: fall, winter

Papayas Selecting: Look for yellow skin with deep orange flesh that yields to slight pressure. Sweet aroma. Green skin and firm fruit is unripe.

Storing: Store at room temperature.

Using: Remove skin, but the peppery-tasting seeds are edible. Use ripe fruit for juice, salads, salsas, sorbets, and as a meat tenderizer in marinades.

Season: spring, summer

Passion Fruit Selecting: Choose the largest, heaviest passion fruits. If ripe, the skin will be wrinkled but firm with a purple-brown color. Smooth skin indicates that it is unripe.

Storing: Ripen at room temperature until the skin wrinkles. They will keep at room temperature for a few days, or longer in the refrigerator.

Using: Use the juice to flavor drinks, fruit soups, dessert creams and custards. The juice is strong, so you don’t need much to get the taste.

Season: winter

Peaches Selecting: Yields to slight pressure. Very fragrant. Avoid soft spots, bruises, or greenish color.

Storing: Will keep at room temperature for a few days, or longer in the refrigerator. Peaches bruise easily, so handle them carefully.

Using: Best at room temperature if eaten raw. Use for cereal topping, salads, salsas, smoothies, sorbets. Bake them in crisps, jams, and pies.

Season: summer

Pears, Asian (Twentieth Century, Hosui)

Selecting: Twentieth Century should be smooth, round, and green-yellow with a sweet, mild taste and lots of juice. Hosui should be golden brown in color and very, very juicy. All varieties are crisp, firm and slightly granular in texture. Asian pears will still feel hard when ripe, so smell the fruit and choose the ones that are most aromatic.

Storing: Store in paper bags in the produce bin of your refrigerator. They will last several weeks.

Using: These won't brown as quickly as other pears or apples. Toss in green salads with a mild, fruity dressing or in fruit salads with berries, kiwi, apples or pears.

Season: summer

Pears, Bartlett, Bosc, D’Anjou and others

Selecting: Pears should yield to very slight pressure. Color varies according to variety. Most are green to golden yellow but some are rosy.

Storing: Store at room temperature to soften slightly, then refrigerate for one to two days when ripe.

Using: When serving sliced, rub the cut surface with lemon juice to prevent discoloration. Slice raw pears into salads. Cooked pears are delicious in cakes and tarts. Serve alongside cheese.

Season: winter

Persimmons

Selecting: Select one with soft, deep red-orange skin with no yellow areas. Hard persimmons are too tart to eat. Pick a persimmon that is soft if you want to eat it immediately.

Storing: Store in the refrigerator. They are best if used within two days. Ripen in a paper bag with a banana or an apple.

Using: Peel before using raw. Add sliced persimmons to fruit salads or green salads.

Season: fall, winter

Pineapples Selecting: Skin should be golden orange-brown. A leaf should be removed easily when gently pulled. Sweet aroma.

Storing: Will keep at room temperature for several days. Refrigerate after cutting. Remove leafy plume, skin, and core.

Using: Raw: salads, salsas, smoothies, and sorbets. Cook with pork in Hawaiian and Chinese dishes. Good with ginger, curry, coconut, rum, or black pepper. Do not use with Jell-O.

Season: spring

Plums

Selecting: Yields to slight pressure. Plump, heavy for size. Storing: Will keep at room temperature for a few days, or longer in the refrigerator. Remove pits.

Using: Best at room temperature when eating them raw. Plums can be cooked in cobblers, crisps, jams, and tarts.

Season: summer

Pomegranates Selecting: Select one that feels heavy for its size and very plump. The top should be slightly soft when pressed and the skin should shine, not appear dry and dull.

Storing: If refrigerated, they will keep for two weeks.

Using: Slice open and eat the seed clusters. Use the juice to flavor drinks, fruit soups, dessert creams and custards. Add the seeds to green salads. Can also be cooked into marmalade.

Season: fall, winter

Pummelo (Pomelo)

Selecting: The largest citrus fruit, they can be round or pear shaped. Choose ones that are firm, thin-skinned and feel heavy for their size. Skin is usually green and yellow.

Storing: They will keep at room temperature for several days or a week or more if refrigerated.

Using: Use for juice or add sections to fruit or green salads or fruit salsas. Good with fish.

Season: winter

Raspberries Selecting: Firm, plump, fully colored berries.

Storing: Store at room temperature or refrigerate in a single layer. Use within a day or two. Wash when ready to use. Very, very delicate.

Using: Eat raw alone or in fresh fruit desserts, salads, and smoothies. Great in cobblers, crisps, jams, muffins, and pies.

Season: spring, summer

Rhubarb Selecting: Select stems that are long, thin, and fully colored red. Don’t eat the leaves as they can be poisonous.

Storing: Can be refrigerated for a few days. If the stalks are thick, peel with a vegetable peeler to remove the fibrous strings.

Using: Rhubarb must be cooked. Use it in fruit soups, compotes, crisps, jams and pies. Good with rich meats such as lamb.

Season: spring, winter

Strawberries Selecting: Select berries with a good red color and an intact green, leafy hull. Avoid berries with soft or brown spots. Huge berries often have hollow centers and little flavor or juice.

Storing: Store at room temperature or refrigerate in a single layer. Use within a day or two.

Using: Wash before removing green tops and only when ready to use. Eat raw, dusted with powdered sugar, or in fruit tarts, salads, smoothies, and sorbets. Cook them for use in jams and pies.

Season: spring, summer

Tangelo Selecting: Look for deep orange-red skin with a prominent neck. They should heavy for their size, free of bruises and brown spots.

Storing: They will keep at room temperature for several days and a week or more if refrigerated.

Using: This mandarin-grapefruit cross is easily peeled, very juicy and rich, but a bit tart. Excellent in fruit and green salads but watch out for seeds.

Season: winter

Tangerine

Selecting: Select ones that are heavy for their size. Some dark areas are ok and can indicate good flavor. Select ones that don’t have soft spots or bruises.

Storing: They will keep at room temperature for several days and a week or more if refrigerated.

Using: Loose skin allows tangerines to be peeled easily. Their tart flesh adds flavor to fruit or green salads but watch out for seeds.

Season: fall, winter

Ugli Fruit Selecting: Look for a thick, bumpy orange-green skin. They should be heavy for their size and free of bruises and brown spots.

Storing: They will keep at room temperature for up to several days and a week or more if refrigerated.

Using: Use like you would a grapefruit; their flesh is sweeter and has very few seeds. Great added to fruit or green salads.

Season: winter

Watermelon

Selecting: Should yield to slight pressure at the stem end. Sweet scent. Skin may be solid green, green-striped or mottled with white. Avoid melons that are very soft.

Storing: Store at room temperature for 2 to 3 days. Refrigerate after cutting. Remove seeds and skins.

Using: Best at room temperature. Be cautious of the many seeds. Good for breakfast, salads, salsas, smoothies, and sorbets.

Season: summer



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