12 years ago by
The rich flavor, superior texture, and intoxicating aroma of fruit when it is perfectly ripe can elevate a meal from ordinary to delicious, whether the fruit is being eaten plain, used in a salad, or incorporated into a dessert.
Depending on the fruit, there are a few general rules of thumb which can be used to locate perfect fruit: if you run into trouble, or are facing an exotic fruit, talk with the your produce seller to get recommendations.
Fruit undergoes a series of changes as it ripens which have a profound impact on the flavor. If allowed to ripen all the way, fruit will grow sweet, losing acidity, and it will also get juicy, deepen in color, and start to emit a rich aroma: this is why it is important to examine fruit in room temperature conditions. Chilled produce sections do not allow you to smell the fruit, an important factor of ripeness. In general, when selecting fruit for ripeness you should look for an evenly colored and texture fruit with a delicious odor. The color should be bright and full, with no hints of green or white unless the fruit naturally has these colors. With fruits like melons, a discolored area indicates where the fruit rested on the ground, which also happens to be the sweetest and most delicious part of the fruit.
Fruit can be divided into two basic categories. Some types of fruit are able to ripen off the parent plant, especially when stored with bananas, which emit ripening agents. Other types of fruit cannot ripen off the parent plant, meaning that they must be vine or tree ripened. These fruits tend to be much more costly, as transporting delicate ripe fruit without damaging it is difficult.
Berries, citrus, cherries, dates, and grapes are all considered non-climacteric fruits. This means that once they are picked, they will not ripen any further, because the parent tree provides the ripening agents and sugars that sweeten them. When selecting these types of fruits in the market, look for plump, juicy, well scented specimens, because what you see is what you will get. Store these fruits with care, and plan on eating them within a few days.
Climacteric fruits will ripen off the parent plant, and in the case of the avocado, they must be picked in order to ripen. Peaches, bananas, apples, melons, plums, persimmons, and tropical fruits will all ripen off the vine. Tropical fruits like mangoes, papayas, cherimoyas, and kiwis will also grow sweeter off the plant, but be aware that the aroma of the fruit may never fully develop, because the scent compounds come from the plant it grows on. These fruits can be picked with less care than non-climacteric fruits, although you should select for mature, evenly texture, firm specimens. They are ripe when the color of the fruit is even, and the texture is yielding but not mushy.
In the case of melons, look for a firm but not hard fruit with a rich aroma.
In the case of the avocado, buying green fruits is actually advised, because you can store them under refrigeration and ripen them as needed. Set an avocado out at room temperature to ripen, watching the color change from green to deep black. The fruit is ripe when the knobbly skin is black and the flesh is slightly yielding to the touch. (Source: Wisegeek)
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