When you’re at the store, the bright, smooth skins of apples, pears, peaches and plums beckon you. You are overwhelmed by their beauty, and even though you only need a few for the week, you buy a bushel. When you have filled all the bags you can, you push your produce-laden cart from the store, imagining the plethora of ways you can enjoy each individual fruit. Then, you get home. You realize that your spouse doesn’t eat pears, and while you enjoy them, you can only consume so many. And, the apples you bought, dreaming of pies and tarts, would be perfect, if you had ever learned to preheat the oven. Before you know it, the fruit has been sitting in your fridge for days. You eye it suspiciously, certain that it is no longer good. The trashcan is the only possibility. But before produce meets refuse, consider this:
Researchers in Belgium recently studied the aging process of fruits and vegetables from the time of purchase to the time of visible decay. Upon buying the produce, they measured the antioxidant levels. They then stored the items either at room temperature or in the refrigerator at 39 degrees Fahrenheit, continuing to check the antioxidant levels as the fruit matured. What they found was that with time the varying fruits’ nutritional values rose rather than fell. As they got older they became better, even when there were a few tell-tale signs of age. So, don’t be too quick to dispose. The produce, days after purchase, still has loads of goodness, and it may even taste better.
Despite popular belief, attractive often equals overly tart or under-flavored rather than tasty. And hideous often equals delicious. The little hints of aging and the softening of the fruit increases sweetness, making the produce that much better.
While what to buy is a matter of preference and knowledge (Perfectly ripe plums may not taste right to you), you should never base your opinion on appearance. Don’t purchase a peach because its rosy hue reminds of you sunset. Buy one that is a little less perfect. If you’re unsure how far to go on the imperfection scale, the USDA offers advice on what to look for and what to avoid, but ultimately, leave the decision up to your taste buds. They are your guide to happy fruit.