Fruit Bounty

carolsloan-new.jpgBy Carol Berg Sloan
Registered Dietitian

Have you seen the fruit bins at your local grocery store? Wow! This year’s summer fruits are bursting with color, sweetness and nutrition. Surprisingly, many consumers don’t take advantage of these delicious treats for a variety of reasons. Many think they spoil too quickly or that they look good on the outside but taste like cardboard or worse inside. Many just want to try new ways to enjoy fruits of the season. Read on to learn these answers and more!

1. Which Fruits Continue to Ripen After They’re Picked?

Apricots, bananas, cantaloupe, kiwi, mangoes, nectarines, peaches, pears, plantains and plums continue to ripen at room temperature after they’re picked. To speed their ripening, put them in a loosely closed brown paper bag or ripening bowl at room temperature. (Ripening bowls are sold at many stores that sell home kitchen supplies.) Plastic bags don’t work for ripening. Once fully ripened, fruits may be stored in the refrigerator to lengthen their storage time.

Though the outside skin of a refrigerated banana will turn dark brown, the inside will remain light-colored.

Fruits that should be picked or bought ripe and ready-to-eat include: apples, cherries, grapefruit, grapes, oranges, pineapple, strawberries, tangerines and watermelon.

2. How Can I Keep Cut Fruit from Turning Brown?
Keep cut fruits, such as apples, pears, bananas and peaches, from turning brown by coating them with an acidic juice such as lemon, orange or pineapple juice. Or use a commercial anti-darkening preparation, frequently called a “fruit protector” such as Ever-Fresh or Fruit-Fresh. Follow the manufacturer’s directions.
Cut fruits as close to serving time as possible. Cover and refrigerate cut fruit until ready to serve. Avoid leaving cut fruit at room temperature for more than two hours.

3. I bought some nectarines that looked great but tasted mealy and bland. How can I tell if a fruit is going to taste as good as it looks?

It’s difficult to predict what a fruit will taste like by looking at it. I have asked the produce manager at the Vons on Atlantic and the Ralphs on Long Beach Boulevard to cut open a peach or pear and they have always been most accommodating. Here are tips for picking good peaches, plums or nectarines from the California Tree Fruit Agreement (

4. Which peach is your peach?
Firmness and juiciness: Yellow peaches are ready to eat when soft and juicy; they’ll yield slightly to gentle palm pressure and have a balance of sweet and tart _avors. Some like them when slightly firm, when they’ll be a little more tart. White peaches, naturally less tart, are sweet and can be ready to eat when still firm and crunchy. Both varieties will taste sweeter and juicier as they soften. Know the difference…and enjoy both!

Color and selection: While the red blush of a peach is beautiful, it doesn’t tell whether the fruit is ripe. Instead, look for a uniform yellow background color, (golden yellow on yellow peaches, creamy yellow on white peaches) with no green around the stem.

Ripening and refrigeration: Selecting firm peaches to eat in a few days? Simply allow them to ripen and soften at home at room temperature. Place peaches in the refrigerator only when they have reached your desired level of ripeness.

5. Which plum is your plum?
Ripeness and flavor: Look for plums that are firm with a little “spring.” While plums are generally known for their tart skin and sweet _esh, the skin will become less tart and the _esh sweeter as the plums ripen and soften.

Ripening and refrigeration: As with peaches and nectarines, allow your plums to ripen and soften at home at room temperature. Don’t put your plums in the refrigerator until they’re as ripe as you want them to be.

Explore and enjoy! There are over 200 varieties of plums, each with a unique color and flavor profile. California plums are like fine chocolate and wine – enjoy finding your favorites by exploring the abundance of subtle flavors and textures!

6. Which nectarine is your nectarine?
Firmness and juiciness: Yellow nectarines can be enjoyed when soft and juicy, when they’ll yield slightly to gentle palm pressure and be both sweet and tart. Some like them slightly more firm, when they’ll be a little more tart. White nectarines are sweet when still firm and crunchy; they can be enjoyed that way or allowed to soften. Both varieties will taste sweeter and juicier as they soften. Try some white and some yellow nectarines, some firm and some soft.

Color and selection: Nectarines’ red-splashed skin is eye-catching, but it doesn’t indicate ripeness. It’s actually the yellow background color (golden yellow on yellow nectarines, creamy yellow on white nectarines) that’s important. Look for a uniform yellow color with no green around the stem.

Ripening and refrigeration: Want your firm nectarines to be ripe and ready to eat a few days from now? Just allow them to ripen and soften at home at room temperature. When they reach your desired level of ripeness, they can then be placed in the refrigerator.

Firm fruits like bananas, apples, pears, and pineapple are delicious and easy to grill. Softer fruits like mango, papaya, peaches, and nectarines are excellent grilling choices but require a watchful eye because of the quick cooking time.

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