As obvious as it may sound, it is of premium importance to buy the best quality food you can afford… and what you see isn’t always what you get in terms of quality and value. So, aside from making sure your foods are clearly labelled as organic, it’s important to use all SIX senses when choosing your fruit and veg.
Generally, we can tell just by looking at a food whether it’s good or not. We can’t see chemicals with our bare eyes, but we can see:
Colour – As a general rule of thumb, the brighter and/or deeper the colour, the more nutrient-dense and ripe that food is.
Size – Bigger doesn’t always mean better. With tropical fruits it often does, although these are generally only found in their native countries. Small tomatoes often taste better than big ones – much sweeter and tastier – and the same applies to berries, but if a fruit is unnaturally small for its kind, that may mean it’s inferior or on its way out. So this is a case-by-case scenario.
Shape – Truly good organic food is often irregular in shape but these foods often don’t make the shelves for that reason. They don’t look “perfect” enough and therefore don’t make the grade. Visit any good organic farm shop and you’ll see lumps, bumps and other irregularities. But my goodness, when you taste them you’ll know that looks simply don’t matter.
Life!– Sometimes you can just see that produce is looking healthier or more alive. Think limp lettuce versus perky pepper!
Other visual signs – Food does actually speak to us using its own language. Yes, really! Think about it for a moment… Bananas go speckled when ripe. Bell peppers go from green, to yellow, to orange to red as they ripen to perfection. Melons round out a little more, and when they’re perfectly ripe they look as if they might burst open – as do durian fruit. Conversely, look out for the less-positive signs, such as those of unripeness (green-ness) and mould or decay (white or brown). None of these you want. You want robust, sparkling, “come-and-get-me” foods that will impart some of what they’ve got to you!
Fresh fruits should have some kind of scent, but many don’t. A lot of this is down to the miles they have travelled, being picked when unripe and being kept in storage too long and at too cool temperatures. Try to select fruits that have a good natural scent wherever possible. This is most likely to be possible with good quality mangoes, tomatoes, red bell peppers, some pineapples, some melons and bananas. This is by no means the definitive guide, but it is my experience here in the UK. And of course, local and seasonal is going to be best.
What the eyes can’t see and the nose can’t smell, the fingers can feel. Picking up and squeezing your food is hugely important. This is especially true with fruits, which generally speaking need to “melt” a little when you squeeze them – that is, to “give” a bit with gentle pressure but not stay dented! Good examples are avocadoes, mangoes and oranges.
Yes, we can use our hearing to detect good food! That doesn’t mean you should wait for your apples to sing or your sweetcorn to hum, but in the case of melons – the perfect example – if you tap it with your fist while holding it to your ear, you should hear a dull thud. If it sounds weak or tinny it’s not yet ripe – put it back and try again!
This is, of course, the ultimate test, but not always practical in a shop setting, which is why it’s important to learn to rely on your other senses. If you CAN get to taste before you buy, then of course go right ahead and use your finest sense of all to make your buying decisions for you.
You may or may not consider your intuition a personal strength, but honing your intuitive abilities is wonderful for many reasons. When it comes to food, sometimes you can bypass most or all of the other five senses by relying on your intuition because when you know, you know.
For example, you might not see be considering buying anything other than what’s on your shopping list today and yet… that shelf of persimmons seems to be calling your name. There is a wonderful thing that can happen when we allow our intuition to take the lead, it will literally take us to the perfect food at the perfect time for something that our body is genuinely asking for and that is in its peak state and ready to share the love. It’s really quite remarkable!
Following these guidelines will give you the best possible chance of making sure you buy and consume the highest quality fresh foods available to you. Seeing isn’t always believing, but when you know what you’re doing… seeing, smelling, touching, hearing, tasting and sensing will serve you well when it comes to getting the best!
So which sense do you rely most heavily on when selecting your fresh produce? Any other top tips for selecting fresh produce that will help other readers? Please share in the comments below!
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