Tips for selecting the best produce


By Robin Young and Amber Webb | PREVIEW Columnists

It’s summertime, and that means that farmers markets in your area are in full swing. 

Whether you are new to shopping at farmers markets or go on a regular basis, have you considered the importance of selecting the best produce for your needs? 

Follow these tips to increase your success and enjoyment at the market.

Making a plan

First, consider what you are selecting your produce for. Are you using it right away for a special recipe? Are you wanting it to last the week for a variety of meals? Or ,are you needing a large amount for a large gathering or food preservation project? 

Depending on your need, you may need produce that is ripe and ready to use, or still ripening because you won’t be consuming it right away. You can ask the farmer who is selling the product to help you pick out what you need. 

And, did you know that most farmers would be happy to cut you a sample of produce to try? Just ask.

Selecting produce

Consider taking a walk through before you start buying at the market so that you know what is available. When you are ready, choose produce that has good texture, color and a fresh smell. Handle produce gently to avoid bruising and other damage. 

Pass on produce that is moldy, badly bruised, or shows signs of insect damage. These may allow pathogens to enter a fruit or vegetable and cause it to spoil quickly.

Consider seconds

When shopping in bulk for cooking in large batches or food preservation projects, ask your farmer for case prices or if they offer seconds of any of their produce. 

“Seconds” (or “utilities”) are what growers may call the produce that doesn’t meet the first standard of quality or appearance. These fruits and vegetables may be slightly discolored or have blemishes. 

While most food preservation recipes require the freshest and highest quality of produce for preserving, recipes that require cooking into sauces are good candidates for high-quality seconds, such as applesauce and tomato sauces. 

For more information on food preservation resources, visit the Foodsmart Colorado website.

Food safety and
storage tips

In order to maintain the highest quality of your produce, follow these storage tips from Colorado State University:

• Washing produce before storing is not recommended as this may promote deterioration. Tomatoes and melons can be stored at room temperature until ripe or cut and then refrigerated.

• Always wash fresh fruits and vegetables with running water just before use.

• Store refrigerated produce in plastic bags with holes to let air circulate.

• Most fresh produce has a short shelf life and should be used within a few days. However, apples, onions, potatoes and winter squash can last much longer.

• Not all produce should be stored together. Apples, tomatoes and melons produce ethylene gas and should be stored away from other produce.

• Store unripen fruit at room temperature in a paper bag until ripe. Refrigerating unripen produce slows down the ripening process.

Following these practical tips can help you enjoy the many flavorful offerings of abundant seasonal produce this year. 

Amber Webb is family and consumer science agent in Weld County.

CPR and first aid classes

CPR and first aid certification classes are offered every other month by the CSU Extension office, generally on the second Monday and Wednesday of each month from 6 to 10 p.m. The cost for the classes is $80 for combined CPR/first aid and $55 for CPR, first aid or recertification. Call the Extension office at (970) 264-5931 to register.