We’ve all fallen into the trap of buying fruit that just won’t ripen.
You empty the apricots into a fruit bowl waiting for them to turn juicy and delicious, only to find a week later they’re still rock hard, crunchy and taste about as good as a leather shoe.
Sometimes the old banana in the bowl method can hasten the ripening process, but all too often, it doesn’t do the trick and you end up throwing the whole lot in the compost or bin.
It’s frustrating, not to mention detrimental to the budget to buy fruit that is never going to be edible.
Veteran horticulturalist Peter Cundall points out that stone fruits need to fully ripen on trees in order to sweeten and fully develop their flavour. If they’re picked too early, plums, peaches, apricots and cherries never become truly luscious and tasty even after softening.
As for winter fruits like pears, the opposite is true: they become mushy if left to fully ripen on the tree. Pears are best ripened indoors at room temperature, but while firm, will keep for weeks in the refrigerator.
So how can you tell when your favourite fruit is ripe?
Pineapples – should be firm, not mushy. The most important thing, however, is smell. An unripe pineapple won’t smell like anything. An overripe pineapple will smell vinegary. A ripe pineapple will smell sweet.
Strawberries – A ripe strawberry will be red through and through. A strawberry picked too early will be white or even slightly greenish at the top.
Mangoes – A ripe mango will smell sweet. Check near the stem end, the smell should be stronger there. Mangos, will also soften as they ripen, so when the fruit starts to go from firm to soft, it is just about ripe.
Avocado – Next time you’re trying to work out if the avocado on the fruit stand is ripe, check under the stem. Peel back the small stem or cap at the top of the avocado and if it comes away easily and you find green underneath, you’ve got a good avocado that’s ripe and ready to eat.
Watermelon – Ripe watermelons have a hollow sound when you tap or slap the outside. Look out for the patch where the melon would have been on the ground (called the field spot). If it’s a yellow colour it’s probably ripe. If it’s white, it’s probably not.
Unfortunately, melons don’t continue to ripen once picked, unlike fruits such as apples and bananas, which contain ethylene. As a tip, don’t store melons with these kinds of fruit, they may well go ‘soggy.’
The time is ripe get shopping for healthy winter fruit at your local independent retailer and make a better choice for you and your family.