Produce 101 – Artichokes

Produce 101 – Artichokes
Choosing the best
Artichokes are one of the oldest foods known to man. Size has little to do with the quality or flavor of the artichoke. Look for compact, heavy plump heads. Research has found that artichokes contain a high amount of antioxidants, which have been shown to help fight cancer.
Storing
Storage is best in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to a 7 days

Produce 101 – Apples

Produce 101 – Apples
Picking the best
With many different varieties of apples grown around the world, Washington State grows the majority of apples consumed by Americans. Whatever the color or variety you choose, look for bruise-free fruit with firm, shiny skin. Since apples are a hardy fruit they are available year-around, new crop apples are available from summer’s end through late fall.
Storing
Ideal storage for apples, are under refrigeration between 34-38 F, where they can last up to 90 days. At room temperature apples ripen within a day or two, so if you consume them in a few days they are fine on the counter. Apples will absorb odors produced by potatoes, bulb onions, or any strong flavored item. When apples ripen, they emit a lot of ethylene gas, which causes other fruit and vegetables to ripen faster so it is recommended to keep them in their own crisper.

Produce 101 – Tomatoes

Produce 101 – Tomatoes
Picking the best
When selecting tomatoes look for tomatoes that are heavy for their size, size of tomato has no affect on taste just a matter of preference. Tomatoes should be firm but yield to the touch. Color and smell are also great indicators of ripeness; unripe tomatoes will have no smell and be pink or lighter in color.
StoringMost tomatoes today are picked before fully ripe. They are bred to continue ripening, but the enzyme that ripens tomatoes stops working when it reaches temperatures below 12.5°C (54.5°F). Once an unripe tomato drops below that temperature, it will not continue to ripen. Once fully ripe, tomatoes can be stored in the refrigerator but are best kept and eaten at room temperature. Tomatoes stored in the refrigerator tend to lose flavor, but will still be edible. To speed up the ripening process of a tomato, store it with a apple or banana in a closed brown paper bag at room temperature.

Produce 101 – Asparagus

Produce 101 – Asparagus
Picking the best
When selecting asparagus look for stalks that are straight, fresh appearing, and uniform in size to ensure that they are done cooking at the same time. Asparagus tips should be firm with closed, compact tips and good green color. The thickness of the stalk is not important; both thin and thick asparagus can be tender.
Storing
Eat fresh asparagus as soon as possible, although it can be stored in the refrigerator. To extend the life of the asparagus so it doesn’t dry out, wrap ends of asparagus with moist paper towel.

Produce 101 – Apricot

Produce 101 – Apricot
Picking the best
The apricot is a stone fruit, which also includes plums, peaches, nectarines, cherries and almonds. When selecting apricots, look for golden yellow color, plumpness and firmness. When ripe, apricots should yield to small amounts of gentle pressure and have a sweet fragrance. Shriveled skin, bruises and or soft spots are to be avoided when selecting apricots; the skin should be smooth and velvety.
Storing
Apricots ripen at room temperature; you can ripen them faster by putting them in a paper bag with an apple, banana or pear. Once ripen they will last a couple of days under refrigeration. Only wash apricots when ready to eat.

Produce 101 – Sweet Potatos

Produce 101 – Sweet Potatoes
Selecting the best
The kind of sweet potato to select is really a matter of your own personal taste. Sweet potatoes are of two kinds moist meated (orange flesh) and dry meated (yellow flesh). The moist meated kind is usually called “yam”. However a true yam is of a different genus, large up to 100 pounds and grown primarily in Africa, Asia and China. Sweet potatoes should be clean, firm, smooth and free from any blemishes.
Storing
Store sweet potatoes at room temperature for up to a week. Cooked sweet potatoes should be refrigerated and consumed in three to five days. Do not refrigerate raw sweet potatoes because it would be to cold for them

Produce 101 – Strawberries

Produce 101 – Strawberry
Picking the best
When selecting strawberries size has no bearing on how sweet the berry is. Strawberries should be firm, plump, red in color and have an attached green cap. Packaged strawberries need to be examined for spoilage or extreme moisture or mold.
Storing
When storing strawberries, open container and sort through berries discarding moldy or overripe berries. Berries that are ripe ready to eat should be eaten in 24 hours. In refrigeration strawberries should last up to a week, continuing to inspect for overripe or moldy berries. Strawberries freeze very well and can last up to a year frozen.

Produce 101 – Summer Squash

Produce 101 – Summer Squash
Picking the best
When selecting summer squash, look for characteristic color and should be fairly heavy for their size. Rind should be soft and easily punctured with the fingernail.
Storing
Store summer squash unwashed in the refrigerator for up to a week. Keep squash away from moisture, which promotes decay.

Produce 101 – Raspberries

Produce 101 – Raspberries
Picking the best
When selecting raspberries look for plump, deep color, clean and fresh in appearance. Raspberries do not ship very well because they are highly perishable berry, so local grown raspberries are your best bet. Check raspberries containers for mold, overripe berries, and or leaky berries, which is a sign of overripe or distressed fruit.
Storing
Raspberries should be consumed shortly after purchase and will only last a few days refrigerated after purchase. Best when stored on a shallow tray single layer with paper towels placed over the top. Always remove moldy berries and consume the soft, overripe berries immediately and return the rest of the berries in to refrigeration. Like all berries raspberries freeze very well.

Produce 101 – Avacados

Produce 101 – Avacados
Picking the best
Avocados vary widely in weight, texture, shape, and thickness of skin. When choosing an avocado avoid those that have dark, soft spots on their surface. As for quality or flavor size, shape and color have no impact. To pick out a ripe avocado, put light pressure from your fingertips on the outer rind. If it yields, it’s ripe
Storing
Unripe avocados should be placed in a paper bag at room temperature and will ripen in 2 to 5 days. To speed up the ripening process place in the paper bag a apple, pear, or banana, the ethylene gas produced from the fruit helps the avocado ripen. To maintain the color off a cut or sliced avocado brush the surface with lime or lemon juice. After an avocado is ripe you can place into refrigeration for a few days to keep it from becoming over ripe.

Produce 101 – Bananas

Produce 101 – Bananas
Picking the best
Select bananas that are not quite full yellow, slightly green, firm and without bruises. Firm bananas are less likely to be bruised and will continue to ripe at room temperature.
Storing
Once the bananas have reached the stage of ripeness one prefers, place the bananas in refrigeration. The skin of the banana will turn dark, but the edible portion will remain unchanged for 3-6 days. Unripe bananas should not be refrigerated because the cold can interfere with ripening process of the banana. Unripe bananas should be placed in a paper or plastic bag to speed up the ripening process.

What produce to buy organic….

I found a fantastic list from the USDA detailing which produce items have the highest level of pesticide residues. These are the produce items that they recommend buying organic if you are worried about the pesticide residue

-Celery
-Peaches
-Strawberries
-Apples
-Blueberries
-Nectarines
-Bell Peppers
-Spinach
-Cherries
-Kale/Collard Greens
- Potatoes
-Grapes (imported)

These are the produce items they found to have the lowest residues of Pesticide
-Onions
-Avocados
-Sweet Corn
-Pineapples
-Mangoes
-Sweet Peas
-Asparagus
-Kiwis
-Cabbage
-Eggplant
-Cantaloupes
-Watermelons
-Grapefruit
-Sweet Potatoes
-Honeydew Melon

Are you looking for more information on produce? Check out our Produce 101 series.