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Is it Ripe? How to Pick the Best Fall Fruits and Vegetables

It’s fall: the air is crisp, the leaves are turning, and apples, pears, sweet potatoes, and pumpkins are lining the booths of your local farmers market. Fruits and vegetables taste best when they are at their peak of ripeness, and they’re the most nutritious then, too. But how can you tell if these fall fruits and vegetables are ripe? We’re here to help!

Here’s a Simple Guide:

  • Apples should smell good, feel firm, and have a rich red, green, or yellow color.
  • Beets ought to be hard and colorful, never soft.
  • Broccoli crowns should be bright green, with no yellowing.
  • Cabbage, when ripe, feels dense and heavy for its size, with leaves tightly curled.
  • Carrots are firm and brightly colored at their height of maturity. When they start to feel slightly limp, it’s time for the soup pot.
  • Kale leaves should be a rich green color — not yellow — and shouldn’t droop.
  • Pears are green or yellow, depending on the variety. If you want to eat them right away, they should smell good and have a little give, and even few brown spots. Firmer pears will ripen on a windowsill or kitchen counter.
  • Pumpkin skin should resist puncture if you press your fingernail into it lightly, and the stem should be woody and brown.
  • Spinach leaves should be dark green — not yellowing or wilted — and the stems should be tender.
  • Sweet potatoes are ripe when they are thick in the middle and tapered at the ends, with no visible bruises.
  • Winter squash, such as acorn, butternut and kabocha, keeps a long time. When you buy it, it should feel heavy, with no soft spots or dark areas on its rind.

Over-ripe Produce? Here’s What to Do
Even if your fruits and vegetables are ripe when you buy them, often the best-laid plans go astray, and suddenly your crisper is full of still usable — but not-quite-perfect — produce. Time to hit the kitchen to make sure nothing goes to waste!

Slightly bruised apples will make a fine applesauce, or you can dry them yourself in the oven to make chewy apple rings that are perfect for lunchboxes or snacking. How to make apple rings: cut the apple into slices and sprinkle cinnamon on each. Place in the oven at 150 degrees for five to eight hours, then allow to cool before placing them in an air-tight container!

Unfortunately, pears go bad more quickly than apples, so if you buy too many at the market, you may enjoy some pear butter! Here’s how to make it: Cut pears into large chunks and press them through a food mill. You should end up with about 4 cups of smooth pear purée, then stir in the lemon juice and sugar. Put this in the oven at 300° for around two to two and half hours, dependent on desired thickness.

What could be better than pumpkin muffins fresh out of the oven on a weekend morning?

This recipe calls for canned pumpkin, but making your own pumpkin puree isn’t that hard if you’d like to give it a try! If you make a big batch, you can have enough pumpkin in your freezer for a whole autumn’s worth of baking.

What are your favorite fall fruits and vegetables? What do you make when they’re overly ripe? Share with us in the comments below!

 

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