By Cheryle Finley
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Whether at the local farmers market or the local grocery store, picking the best fruit possible is sometimes tricky. But it's always important.
It's disappointing getting fruit home and sinking your teeth into it only to discover it's not edible. Add to that the expense of tossing the fruit you paid good money for and might start rethinking buying fresh fruit at all. Have you bought cherries lately? I hadn't bought any for quite a while, so I decided to splurge and purchase a few. A small- to medium-size bag set me back almost $8, so I planned to make them last as long as possible. I expected them to be like most other fruit: good for up to a week.
Within two days they were moldy and rotten. I didn't realize I should have eaten them as soon as possible because those two days are their normal life span. I learned that one the hard way.
I like to keep fruit on the butcher's block in the middle of the kitchen because I think it makes it more accessible. Getting a glimpse of an apple or orange perched up in the fruit bowl sometimes triggers the urge to enjoy some fruit. But that's not the best way to store all fruit for maximum flavor and longevity. Taste of Home gives these helpful hints on buying and storing fresh fruit.
Apples: Apples come in yellow, green and red. Look for firm fruit that has a rich color. Apples will stay good in the refrigerator crisper for up to a month. Store unwashed, and wash before eating.
Bananas: The best bunch of bananas will have a solid yellow color speckled with brown. Greenish bananas ripen well at home so they are a good buy for eating later. Don't store bananas in the refrigerator; room temperature is best.
Blueberries: Look for firm, brightly colored blueberries that are a little dull. These are ripe and ready to go. Make sure they aren't leaking in the bottom of the container. Blueberries freeze well, but don't wash them beforehand. Spread them on a cookie sheet, place them in the freezer until frozen, then place in a freezer-safe container.
Melons: Melons should have a sweet smell, and the end should have a little bit of give. If not ripe, place the melon on the counter for two to three days. Store ripe, whole melons in the fridge and they'll last a week. Cut melons will stay good for a few days in an airtight container or wrapped in plastic in the fridge.
Cherries: The best are plump, shiny and dark red. Store them in the refrigerator unwashed, and eat them within a few days of buying them.
Grapefruit: Heavy, firm grapefruit are the super juicy ones. They will stay good on the countertop for two to three days and in the crisper for a couple of weeks.
Oranges: The heavier an orange is for its size, the juicier it's likely to be. Take a pass on those with thick, coarse or spongy skin. Oranges will stay good in the fridge for a few weeks.
Peaches: Fresh peaches have a short season and are fairly perishable, so buy only what you plan to use in a couple of days. Speed up ripening by placing them in a paper bag at room temperature.
Plums: Choose plump fruit that gives slightly when gently pressed. They will have a fruity smell and should not be too soft. Store unwashed in the refrigerator for three to five days. To ripen, place in a paper bag on the kitchen counter. Wash before eating.
Pears: Not as sturdy as apples, pears should be used within a week after they become ripe.
Pineapples: A good one has a definite pineapple smell and will feel heavy for its size, with green, crisp leaves. Store unripe pineapples whole at room temperature and away from sunlight. Keep whole ripe ones in the fridge in a punctured plastic bag for a few days.
Strawberries: Look for firm strawberries with the cap stem still attached. Avoid those with large, uncolored seedy areas. Never wash strawberries harshly. Just rinse under running water before removing the stem. Water will get into the flesh and dilute the berry. Store them in a paper towel-lined, airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days.
Raspberries and blackberries: Choose from black, red or golden colors. Be sure they are firm and not mushy in the bottom of the container. Store covered with a paper towel in a single layer on a paper towel-lined baking sheet for up to three days.
Watermelons: This fruit may or may not be seedless and is pink, orange or gold inside. If you are buying a precut piece of watermelon, look for rich-colored flesh, dark seeds and no white streaks. Whole melons should be even in shape, not lopsided, with a smooth surface, pale green color and well-rounded ends. Store ripe watermelon in the refrigerator. Take it out an hour or so before eating for the sweetest taste.
Kiwi: Choose kiwi with flesh that gives slightly when pressed, and make sure it actually smells like kiwi. The skin should be a smooth, light green and brown color.
Grapes: Buy grapes that are plump and still attached to the stem. Store unwashed in the fridge for up to a week in a punctured plastic bag. Wash before eating.
Apricots: Look for firm fruit with smooth skin. Store firm apricots at room temperature, then, once they give to gentle pressure, store in the refrigerator for two to three days.
Mangoes: Look for plump mangoes with a sweet, fruity smell and no bruising. The skin should be green to yellow in color with a hint of red. Keep green mangoes away from sunlight at room temperature until ripe, then store unwashed in refrigerator. Wash before eating.
I hope this helps you in your quest for buying quality fresh fruit and keeping it that way. Enjoy the summer bounty.
Today's recipes are from Taste of Home and feature fresh fruit. The pizza is made using crescent rolls, but I've made it using sugar cookie dough, and I like it better. Crescent rolls work best for veggie pizza. I had to include the applesauce recipe because it brings back memories of when my daughter, Sarah, was in grade school. She'd get off the bus from school and stay with my grandmother until I got off work. Her favorite after-school treat was Nana's homemade applesauce with saltine crackers. She would eat it every chance she got, and she never got tired of it. The sorbet takes some planning ahead for the freezing and refreezing, but it's worth it for a cool summer treat. Stay cool and happy eating!
Coconut berry pizza
2 tubes crescent rolls
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 cup confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons seedless raspberry jam
1 (8-ounce) carton frozen whipped topping, thawed
4 medium kiwi, peeled and sliced
11/3 cups sliced fresh strawberries
11/3 cups each fresh raspberries, blueberries and blackberries
1/2 cup flaked coconut, toasted
Unroll crescent dough and place in a greased 15-by-10-by-1-inch baking pan. Press onto the bottom and up the sides of the pan; seal seams. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on wire rack. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, beat the cream cheese, confectioners' sugar and jam until smooth. Fold in whipped topping. Spread over crust, then arrange fruit over top. Sprinkle with coconut. Chill until serving. Yields 16 servings.
8 cups chopped, peeled tart apples
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Combine all ingredients in a Dutch oven. Cover and cook over medium-low heat for 20 to 40 minutes or until apples are tender, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; mash apples with potato masher until sauce is desired consistency. Serve warm or cold. Yields 3 1/2 cups.
Citrus melon sorbet
1/4 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon lime juice
3 cups diced cantaloupe
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon each grated lemon and lime peel
Combine all ingredients in a blender. Cover and process for 1 to 2 minutes or until smooth. Pour into a 9-by-13-inch dish. Cover and freeze for 45 minutes or until edges are firm. Stir; freeze 2 hours longer or until firm. Just before serving, process in the blender for 2 to 3 minutes or until smooth.
Address correspondence to Cheryle Finley, c/o The Joplin Globe, P.O. Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802.