Fruit should play a big part in any healthy diet but can be particularly advantageous when following a low-fat eating regime. There is now a sometimes bewildering array of fruit in our supermarkets and we can really be spoilt for choice but unfortunately, it has also become tasteless. It can be flabby and under-ripe, taste of cotton wool, and generally be completely unsatisfying. Although the supermarkets claim they only provide what we consumers want, fruit is definitely one group that suffers from food miles and forced production out of season.
There are things to know when you buy fruit that will help you choose the ones that are best included to give your low-fat diet, the taste you’re looking for, and also how to ensure you get the best you can.
The best bit of advice is to avoid the supermarkets and buy from local growers at farm shops, famers markets, or even from an organic box delivery scheme. If you don’t have easy access to these you can always grow your own or even just go back to the old days and only eat fruit that is in season.
Supermarket fruit is picked before it is ripe to minimise damage during shipping so here’s some tips on how to buy the best fruit:
Fruits that will never ripen after picking:
Cherries, soft berries, citrus fruits, grapes, pineapple and watermelon.
They do not ripen, they simply rot.
Fruits that will ripen but not get sweeter:
Apricots, blueberries, figs, melons, peaches, nectarines, plums, passion fruit.
Colour, texture, and juiciness can improve after harvesting but fruit sugars do not develop further.
Fruits that will sweeten after picking:
Apples, kiwi fruit, mangoes, papaya, bananas
Flavour, texture, colour, and tenderness can all develop after the fruit is picked from the tree/plant.
How to tell if fruit is ripe:
Don’t be afraid to pick up the fruit before you buy it because ripeness is not something you can always spot just by looking at it.
With some fruit, smell is the instant indicator – Galia and cantaloupe melons and pineapple have a beautiful heady fragrance when ripe.
You should also be able to tell the sweetness when you sniff stoned fruit and kiwis.
A fresh pineapple should have a little “give” when you squeeze it and you should be able to easily pluck a leaf without tugging from the centre of the top fronds.
If you tap a melon with your knuckles it should have a hollow sound.
Stoned fruits should also have a bit of give but not bruise when pressed.
Ripe fruit should also feel heavy for its size – hold citrus fruit in the palm of your hand and if it feels weighty it is ready to eat. If it feels light, leave well alone because this means the juice will have dried up.
For small fruits that do not require peeling such as grapes and berries, discretely try it by eating one. Taste is, of course, the infallible test.
Bananas are the fruit that make it easy to judge ripeness by sight as they distinctly change colour as they ripen.
Bananas are also great for ripening other fruit. If you are happy buying fruit that isn’t quite ready, store it with green bananas and the bananas give off gases which accelerate the ripening process of the other fruits.
Follow these guidelines and you’ll get good value for money and a great ingredient for your healthy and low-fat diet.