These are three foods that are currently fresh and local in Colorado (strawberries are from neighboring state Oklahoma). Yesterday I wrote about the benefits of eating food that is seasonal and local, and today I will give you some tips on how to choose the right piece of fruit or vegetable.
If you are eating the apple fresh as a snack or with lunch or dinner, choose an apple that is firm and free of bruises or brown spots. It should appear nearly ripe. If you give it a little tap or flick near the stem, you should hear a dull thud. If it sounds hollow, that means the apple is too ripe. The softness or mushiness in an apple is a sign of oxidation, meaning some of the nutrients have been destroyed. We should always try to get the most nutrients out of our produce. Remember – it starts losing nutrients as soon as it’s picked. This is why trips to the apple orchard are great in the fall months. You can pick your own apples and they will be more nutrient-dense than any apple you’d find at the grocery store! However, if your apples at home do turn soft and become overripe, you can use them to make applesauce or pie. These types of apples are perfect for baking.
Typically, the rounder the apple the younger it is. When they start to elongate, it means they’ve been on the tree longer. The younger apples will be more flavorful and, in my opinion, are preferable.
Storage is an important part of the apple process as well. All apples should be stored in the fridge so they stay fresh longer. They’ll last a couple of weeks in your fridge, whereas apples in the fruit bowl on the counter will begin to rot much sooner. If you are trying to soften apples up for pie or sauce, keep them out on the counter.
Strawberries don’t last as long as apples, so buy them right before you plan on eating them. They should be bright red and still have their green stems attached. If they appear mushy or have mold on them, search for a better container. With strawberries, I always look closely at the bottom and sides of the clear container to make sure there is no mold or crushed berries. Strawberries are expensive, and I always want to get the most out of the container I buy!
Have you ever been to a farmer’s market and gotten those really small strawberries? If so, you probably noticed how sweet they were. As with many fruits, the smaller the berry, the sweeter it will be. Sometimes the huge ones are a bit more sour and less flavorful.
When you bring them home, inspect the strawberries more closely and remove any moldy or mushy ones before putting the rest in the refrigerator. They will stay fresh for 2-3 days in there, but if you leave them on the counter they will spoil quickly. When you’re ready to eat them, wash the berries well. Strawberries are known for being covered in herbicides and pesticides, so I give them a good (but gentle) scrub before eating.
Whether you’re choosing sweet potatoes, russet potatoes, purple potatoes, or red potatoes, you want to look for ones that are firm, fairly even-shaped, and have few or no blemishes. I like to buy my potatoes from the bulk section rather than in prepackaged bags, because I’ve had bad experiences in the past. Sometimes when you buy a bag it’s hard to tell if all the potatoes are fresh, and so you may end up tossing out some of the rotten ones when you get home.
Make sure your potatoes are not sprouting anywhere on the skin. Sprouting indicates a toxic substance has formed in the potato, and this substance is linked to things like headaches and diarrhea. If you notice any of your potatoes have sprouted, toss them out right away. If the sprouts are very small, you can just shave off that part of the potato and eat it right away.
Potatoes should be stored in cool, dry places such as basements, garages, or pantries. Do not refrigerate them as they will harden and the starches will turn into sugars, altering the flavor. If you keep them on the counter they will rot more quickly. (I am guilty of keeping ours on the counter because I know if I hide them in some cupboard, I’ll totally forget we have them!). They should last a couple of weeks if chosen and stored properly. Potatoes cooked with the skin on retain more nutrients. They’re a great food not only for dinners but also as snacks. Sweet potatoes are especially great for babies and kids, because they taste good and are nutritious.
Tomorrow: Spinach, oranges, asparagus!