How to Pick Out Perfectly Ripe Fruits and Veggies at the Store or Farmers Market

We’re blessed to live in a world with such a delightful variety of fruits and vegetables. But do you ever find yourself wondering at the supermarket, “How do I know if my produce is good?” While some produce, like mushrooms, makes it very obvious, others, like avocados, are notoriously challenging. Whether you are buying produce at the grocery store or the farmers’ market, it can be a game-changer to know how to pick out good apples, how to choose ripe bananas, or how to tell if a pomegranate is sweet. Here’s How To Cook Recipe‘s guide to how to pick good produce every time so that your grocery shopping trips can be efficient, juicy, and stress-free:

Click to view the full-size infographic

How to Pick Out Perfectly Ripe Fruits and Veggies at the Store or Famers Markets

How to Select the Best Produce

Here are some general tips on what to look for when buying fresh produce and how to pick ripe fruit or vegetables:

  • Fresh produce will generally smell fresh. Often, the more fragrant it is, the more flavorful it will be. However, in some cases, such as cabbage, the smell will get stronger with more age.
  • Consistent firmness is a good sign in most cases.
  • Look for rich, vibrant color. This is a good sign that it is fresh and full of nutrients.
  • Ripe, fresh produce should feel heavy for its appearance.
  • If it is too perfect in appearance, that may a sign that artificial means were used to hide its poor quality or lack of freshness. Beware if it looks too uniform, waxy, or shiny.
  • Shop in season. Get educated on what is available in your region each month so that you can enjoy the freshest fruits and vegetables.

How Do You Pick Out Good Avocados?

Here are several tips on how to tell if an avocado is good when selecting one at the market:

  • Observe the color — a darker green is ideal, but because avocado colors can vary, it’s best to go by touch.
  • When squeezed, it should feel slightly soft but not squishy. Ideally, it will have the consistency of somewhat firm memory foam. Avoid the avocado if you feel any mushy spots that give too much to gentle pressure.
  • Peel back the cap at the top of the avocado. If it detaches easily and you find green underneath, the avocado should be fresh. However, if the stem has already been removed, the oxidation process begins and it may brown prematurely, making it difficult to determine if the avocado is ripe from this visual test alone.

How Do You Choose the Perfect Watermelon?

According to, the key to choosing the perfect watermelon is to remember a simple phrase: “Look, Lift, Turn.”

  • Look: Give the watermelon a visual inspection. The perfect watermelon should be free of cuts, bruises, and dents. Consider any patches on the watermelon.
  • Lift the watermelon. The heavier it is for its size, the more juicy and ripe it should be.
  • Turn the watermelon over. Is yellow in watermelon bad? No! A creamy yellow spot indicates where the watermelon was resting before being harvested. A large yellow spot suggests that it spent more time ripening on the vine, creating more sweetness. A white spot means it did not spend enough time gathering flavor, but this is better than no spot at all.

We hope these tips on how to pick a good watermelon will make all of your summer dreams come true!

How to Pick Out the Perfect Pineapple

Here are a few tips on how to choose a ripe pineapple:

  • Seek out a sweet aroma. Lack of smell means it is not ripe, while a vinegar smell means it is spoiled.
  • The leaves should be healthy, vibrant, and green, giving slightly when squeezed.
  • Look for a consistent yellow-green to golden-yellow color — if it is too orange, it may be overripe. Pineapples change from green to yellow as they ripen, and they stop ripening after being picked.

How To Pick Out the Perfect Fruits

Fruit Ripeness Signs Best Time to Buy
Apple Feels firm and solid

Tight skin that does not wrinkle or shift when touched

Avoid bumps and bruises


Late July–November
Avocado Darker green (but colors vary, so go by touch)

Feels slightly soft when squeezed but not squishy

Consistency of slightly firm memory foam

Vibrant green or yellow under the stem (avoid brown)

Blueberries Appears plump with a deep blue color and a light gray dusting (avoid ones tinged with red or pink)

The more firm they are, the more tart and unripe

Blackberries Only buy in season — they do not continue to ripen after being picked

Smooth appearance with little to no redness

If moldy or squished, they are overripe

Cantaloupe Sweet, pleasant aroma (overly sweet may mean it is spoiling)

Stem should pop off easily

Tan color beneath the “netting” (green means it’s unripe)

Slight give when pressed gently

Heavier than it looks

Hollow sound when tapped

Cherries Stems should still be attached

Deep crimson flesh (too purple may be overripe)

Firm to the touch

Kiwi Evenly colored tan skin

Flesh should have some give when gently pressed with a thumb

Honeydew Creamy pale yellow or golden hue (green veins may mean it is not yet ripe)

Press the end opposite from the stem gently — it should have a slight give

Sweet scent

Shake the melon — you should hear a faint rattle of seeds (they detach as the melon ripens)

Deep, dull thud when tapped with fingers

Watermelon Lightest part of the melon should be yellow, not white

Slightly sweet aroma

Smooth skin with a dull sheen

Heavier than it looks

Banana Avoid green unless you plan to wait to eat it

Optimal color is yellow with some brown spots (brown spots mean the sugar content has risen during the ripening process)

Full and plump

Depressed, dark, or moist areas indicate bruising damage inside

Strawberries Rich, sweet aroma

Healthy, dark green leaves

Check under the leaves on the “shoulders” — there should be no green or white

Pineapple Sweet swell (no smell means unripe, vinegar smell means overripe)

Healthy green leaves that give slightly when squeezed

Leaves should pull out easily

Consistent golden-yellow color (too orange may be overripe)

Raspberries Plump with a rich, vibrant color

If the container is stained, they may be overripe

Good structural integrity

Lemon/Lime The heavier, the juicier

Firm to the touch; avoid rough or wrinkly skin

Brightly colored (lemons should have no green; limes should be a light yellow-green)

Orange Shiny, thin skin with a rich and consistent color

A little give when squeezed (avoid any with soft spots)

Heavier than it looks

Peach/Nectarine Lightly fuzzy and soft appearance (nectarines do not have fuzz, but all other tips apply)

Tender to the touch (firm will be more fresh, but softer is ready to eat)

Golden undertones sun-kissed with orange and red

Mid-to-late summer
Pear Apply gentle pressure near the stem — it should give slightly

Color rarely indicates ripeness

Pomegranate Dark ruby-red color

Smooth, firm skin

Heavy for its size (meaning it’s full of seeds and juicy)

Flattened, angular sides (avoid ball-like fruit)

Mango Color does not indicate ripeness, but ripe mangoes are generally more intensely pigmented

Sweet, intense aroma (unripe will have no smell; overripe will smell sour)

Soft enough to retain an imprint when gently pressed

Flesh around the stalk should appear firm

Stalk should protrude outward

Grapefruit Plump, smooth, with thin skin

Heavy for its size

Consistent orange color (avoid any green)

Firm when squeezed

Avoid perfectly round fruit (flattened sides or a more oval shape indicate ripeness and sweetness)



How To Pick Out the Perfect Vegetables

Veggie Ripeness Signs Best Time to Buy
Tomato Heavy for its size

Free of blemishes or dark spots

Firm but will yield to any real pressure

Richly fragrant when sniffed where the stem is attached

Potato Firm; does not give when squeezed

Skin should rub off under thumb pressure

Avoid sprouts, wrinkled skin, or green tinges

Beet Firm and round

Bright green leaves and deep red roots

Long roots may indicate toughness

Smaller beets are more tender

Onions Dry, papery skin

Avoid brown or soft spots

Firm to the touch

Heavy for its size

Mushrooms Firm, smooth, and plump appearance

Should be dry but not shriveled

Avoid slime, softness, or spots

Younger mushrooms will be more compact and closed (they keep their structure better when cooked but may not be as flavorful as mature mushrooms)

Fall and winter
Brussels sprouts The smaller, the more sweet and tender

Tight, compact leaves

Bright green (yellowing indicates they are overripe)

Artichoke Solid and heavy

Thick, tightly packed leaves

Leaves should squeak when rubbed

March–June, September–October
Bell peppers Firm, glossy skin that yields to slight pressure

Bright flesh

Stem should be green

Eggplant Firm, smooth, and shiny flesh

Free of wrinkles with a nice glow

Firm stem (avoid mushiness)

Heavy for its size

Asparagus Firm, plump stalks

Tightly closed tips

Bright color (can be green, purple, or white depending on variety)

The more fresh, the less smelly

Broccoli Firm stems

Tightly closed deep green, blue-green, or purple-green buds

Yellow/open buds or woody stems indicates they are no longer fresh



Related: Roasted asparagus recipe, classic fruit salad recipe, perfect baked potato recipe



Use the following embed code to post this infographic on your website:

This page was last updated by Megan Miller