A ripe apple will be firm and deeply colored. Depending on the variety, there should also be a slight rosy tone. If you want to find apples with the best flavor, buy them during apple season, which spans from late summer to early winter.
In the United States, the two common varieties of avocado are usually referred to as California and Florida avocados. The California avocados (also known as Hass avocados) are the ones with pebbly skins that darken as they ripen. The larger ones with the smooth green rinds are Florida avocados. California, or Hass, avocados tend to be richer and creamier and make better guacamole. Florida avocados are lighter-tasting and contain less fat.
The best way to get a perfectly ripe avocado is to buy a hard, unripe one. Unlike most fruits, avocados start to ripen only after they are picked. As they sit in the produce section of the food market, getting bumped and squeezed by potential customers, the softer, riper fruits may develop bruised spots. These unpalatable bruises are hard to detect from the outside, especially on the Hass variety, which turn black as they ripen. Reduce the chances of blemishes by buying a firm avocado and letting it ripen undisturbed in your kitchen. A ripe avocado yields to gentle pressure but is still somewhat firm. One that feels soft may very well be overripe and brown inside. If your avocado is ripe before you are ready to eat it, put it in the refrigerator where it should keep for a few days.
Ripe bananas are, of course, yellow, but it’s okay to buy them while they’re still green if you don’t plan on eating them for a few days. A yellow banana with a few brown spots is at its height of sweetness. If you are freezing bananas for desserts, wait until the banana is at this fully ripened stage and peel it before putting it into the freezer.
When choosing blackberries, look for deep, evenly colored berries with a nice sheen. A ripe blackberry is deep black; if the berry is red or purple, it is not ripe. They should be plump and dry and should not have dents or bruises. Check the bottom of the container to make sure there isn’t leakage from damaged berries.
Select fresh blueberries that are completely blue, with no tinge of red. A natural shimmery silver coating on the berries is desirable. Blueberries must be ripe when purchased, as they do not continue to ripen after harvesting. Stained or leaking containers are an indication of fruit past its prime.
Be choosy when picking a cantaloupe because they’re often picked while still unripe so they’re not damaged during shipping. You can spot an unripe cantaloupe by its green tones. Look for a cream-colored cantaloupe—with no green patches—that has a slightly soft end (the end opposite the stem). Give a sniff and choose one that smells sweet but not overly so, which could mean it’s too ripe.
CARAMBOLA (STAR FRUIT)
When ripe, star fruit appear mainly bright yellow with tinges of light green. They may have some dark brown along the five ridges. The flesh should still be quite firm to the touch. You can also buy star fruit when it’s green and wait for it to ripen; just leave it on your counter for a few days. When overripe, star fruit turns entirely yellow and starts to have brown spots all over.
Cherimoyas are tropical fruits native to South America. They have a white custard-like flesh, green skin, and black seeds. Choose a cherimoya that is green and firm to the touch and allow it to ripen on the counter or in a paper bag until it is slightly soft. The ripe fruit can be cut in half and scooped out with a spoon. Do not eat the seeds or the skin.
Many Americans are only familiar with dried figs, but fresh figs are a delicious treat. Look for fruit that is slightly soft to the touch with no surface breaks in the skin. Fruit with sap coming out of the end opposite the stem is ripe and has a high sugar content. Figs come in all colors from yellow to brown and red to purple, so you need to know what type of fig it is to use color as a ripeness guide. The most commonly grown figs are a golden yellow when ripe. Because they spoil quite easily, refrigerate and plan on using your fresh figs soon after they ripen.
Ripe grapes are firm and smooth and should still be attached to the stem. Green grapes with a yellowish cast will be sweeter, as will deeply colored red and purple grapes.
Although jackfruit is a common sight throughout Asia, in the West it is still largely unknown. It is huge and prickly on the outside with pods or bulbs inside. The fruit is ripe when it turns from green to yellow. Though it has a notoriously bad smell when ripening, the sweet bulbs are delicious. Jackfruit can also be purchased frozen or dried.
A kiwi is ripe when it gives slightly when pressed. Those that are too hard will not be sweet, while those that are too soft or shriveled may be spoiled or fermented.
Finding a ripe mango can be tricky because they can be yellow, red, green, or orange in color. Those that are ready to eat will usually have a yellow hue and should be slightly soft to the touch. Ripe mangoes also have a sweet aroma near the stem end.
Papayas with a red-orange skin are ripe and ready to eat. Those with yellow patches are fine, but will take a few days to ripen. Don’t eat papayas that are still green or hard, as they are not fully ripe.
Most pears in the supermarket are not ripe, so choose those that are firm but not extremely hard and are free from dark soft spots. Brown speckles are okay and may mean better flavor. Once you get the pears home, leave them on the counter to ripen for a few days.
There are two types of persimmons, astringent and nonastringent. The astringent varieties are delicious when soft and fully ripened but are unpleasant-tasting when eaten sooner.
The most common astringent variety is the heart- or acorn-shaped Hachiya, also called Japanese persimmon or Kaki. It should be eaten when very ripe (completely soft). The fruit has a high tannin content, which makes the immature fruit astringent and unpalatable. The tannin gradually disappears as the fruit matures. When ready to eat, the flesh becomes sweet, aromatic, and almost liquid. A ripe (soft-ripe) persimmon is like a thin skin full of thick jelly. The fruit ripens and softens from the top down, so the trick to enjoying a persimmon is to let it ripen until the wide bottom edge around the leaf is soft. The ripe fruit can then be refrigerated until eaten.
Nonastringent persimmons are shorter, tomato-shaped, and most commonly sold as the Fuyu variety. The Sharon fruit is a type of Fuyu persimmon. These nonastringent persimmons can be consumed when firm and also remain edible when soft.
You can find a ripe pineapple by choosing one that’s heavy for its size and has a sweet smell, particularly near the stem. The bottom end should be starting to turn yellow; if it is green throughout, it is typically unripe.
The best plums are those that yield slightly to pressure and have a deep color and a semi-soft tip. Plums that feel firm will ripen in a few days, but avoid those that are rock hard, as they may have been harvested too soon to ever fully ripen.
The ripest pomegranates are found in fall and early winter. When you pick them up, they should feel heavy, an indication they are full of juice and ripe. The skin should be dark or bright red and tight and smooth with no cracks or bruises.
To open and deseed a pomegranate, make a ½-inch cut around its center and then twist back and forth until it splits in two. Hold the half of the pomegranate loosely in your palm and opened fingers with the flat, cut side down. With the other hand, hit all around the top, rounded skin, rotating, smacking, and softening each segment, which pops all the seeds out between your fingers. Once softened, turn the skin inside out to look for remaining kernels to remove, if any.
Strawberries are ripe when they’re a deep red color with a shiny skin. Avoid buying any with green or yellow patches, as they’re unripe and won’t ripen any further. Most often, it is best to stay away from very large strawberries. Though they look good, their flavor is often inferior to smaller berries.
With cut pieces, look for watermelon flesh that is bright red in color. It should be firm and not mushy or watery. Stay clear of watermelon that has white streaks in the flesh, has a pinkish flesh, or is too deeply colored and spoiled. For whole melons, choose a firm, heavy watermelon with a smooth skin, and be sure it has a well-defined yellow area on one side. This is the spot where the watermelon rested while ripening. If it’s not there, it means it may have been harvested too soon.