Choosing and Buying Fruit

Apples

Although you should avoid buying apples that are bruised or have soft spots, don't be put off by sound apples that have a few dull, rough, brown patches on their skin. This is known as russeting, and some varieties may even have russet patches that extend over their whole surface.

You can test an apple's ripeness by grasping it around its waist and applying gentle pressure; the fruit is at its best if the flesh is firm and the skin only wrinkles only slightly. A pleasant fragrance is also a good indicator of ripeness.

Apricots

Once an apricot is picked, it will not continue to sweeten, so it's important to test that the apricot is sufficiently ripe before you buy. Press the fruit gently between two fingers - it should feel soft.

Bananas

As bananas are picked whilst they are still green and hard, they may not be completely ripe by the time they reach the shops. However, they will soon ripen when left at room temperature, turning yellow when they are ready to eat. Do not choose fruit that has already has a spotted, scented skin, as this indicates that they have already become overripe.

Bananas should be bought in a bunch rather than loose, since the skin of loose bananas may well be ripped at the top, thus exposing the flesh.

Citrus Fruit

When buying citrus fruits, pick those that feel heavy for their size, as this means that they have plenty of juice. Make sure that the fruit is sound, with no sign of damp patches, bruising or soft spots. Don't worry about any green patches - these come from chlorophyll in the skin, which fades at cooler temperatures and revives at higher ones. The fruit inside the skin remains unaffected.

If you're planning on using the peel (for example, for marmalade), try to chose fruit that is not waxed, and make sure that you wash it thoroughly to remove any traces of chemical treatments the fruit may have had.

Cherries

Look for plump, brightly coloured fruit with clean, glossy unbroken skins. Make sure that the fruit is still attached to its fresh, green stalks; those that have become detached may have been spoiled by rot or moulds.

Dates

Always choose fat, wrinkly skinned and non-sticky specimens.

Grapes

Try to choose grapes with little or no bloom, as this indicates that they have been handled too much. The fruit should be plump with no sign of wrinkling in the skin and no brown patches by the stalks. Avoid bunches with any small, shrivelled grapes, as these will be sour. Red or black grapes should not show any hint of green, whilst green grapes may have an amber tone.

Mangoes

Mangoes should have a good perfume and feel slightly soft. Those that have large black patches tend to be overripe, whilst those that are completely green will not ripen properly at all.

Melons

When buying a melon, try to choose firm, plump fruit without any scars or moist bruises on the skin. Make sure that the stem end has a clean scar - a rough scar indicates that it was picked before it was fully ripe. All melons should feel heavy for their size and have a pleasant, sweet melon scent about them.

Press the fruit gently at the blossom end; cantaloupes and honeydew melons will feel slightly springy if they are ripe. However, if you can hear a sloshing sound when you shake it, the melon is over-ripe and has started to deteriorate.

Payaya (Pawpaw)

Buy papayas when they are firm, unblemished and just turning yellow, then allow them to ripen at home.

Peaches

Peaches are fragile and should be handled very gently; they should feel firm with a little give. Avoid buying greenish-coloured fruit as they are unlikely to ripen any further.

Pears

Check pears for ripeness by pressing them near their stem; there should be more than a little give. You should also test them at the blossom end, if they feel oozingly soft, they are likely to be over-ripe.

Pineapples

When buying a pineapple, choose one that is ripe or almost ripe; an unripe pineapple will probably never develop its flavour to the full. Ripe pineapples are fragrant and uniformly coloured. Avoid fruit with a mouldy or discoloured stalk, or one that has wilted leaves. It's worth bearing in mind that small pineapples often have a more delicate flavour than large ones.

Rhubarb

Choose crisp, firm stalks and use them as soon as you can - rhubarb is very perishable.

Watermelons

Watermelons should sound hollow when tapped, and should have a bloom on their skin. Check the spot where it rested on the ground; this should be amber coloured, not green or white. If you're simply buying a piece of watermelon, make sure that there are no visible fibres; these will show as hard white streaks.