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Storing and Purchasing Fresh Produce

Storing and Purchasing Fresh Produce

Culinary Institute of America

Citrus

Citrus fruits are extremely juicy, with segmented flesh and skins that contain aromatic oils. They can be very sweet to extremely tart. Oranges, grapefruits, lemons, limes, and tangerines are the most common citrus fruits.

Citrus fruits are best known for their high vitamin C content, but they also supply folate, fiber, and phytochemicals. Limonene, which is in the peel, is a phytochemical that may neutralize cancer-causing agents. Oranges and tangerines contain a carotenoid called beta cryptoxanthin, which can inhibit some tumors. Pink and red grapefruit supply lycopene, another antioxidant carotenoid.

Most citrus fruits keep very well. Their fairly thick skins protect them from bruising and decay, and preserve vitamins. Most often used uncooked, citrus can add a sweet-tart note to savory dishes, especially in sauces. They are also used in many desserts.

Melons

Succulent and sweetly aromatic, most melons are related to squashes and cucumbers. The four major types are cantaloupes, watermelons, winter melons (such as honeydew, casaba, and Crenshaw), and muskmelons.

Determining ripeness of melons can be tricky; specific techniques for different types are provided below. Most melons do not ripen after picking, so the challenge is to identify those that were picked when ripe. In general, all melons should be fragrant and feel heavy for their size.

Melons are an exceptional source of soluble fiber, vitamin C, and most B vitamins, as well as different carotenoid pigments.

Firm, uncut melons can be stored at room temperature for two to four days. This will cause their flesh to soften and become juicier. Once they have been cut, they should be refrigerated and used within two days. Don’t cut melons until just before using, to preserve vitamin C, and always wash them first so that any bacteria on the skin are not transferred to the flesh.

Stone Fruits

So called because they have one large central pit, or stone, this group of fruits includes peaches, plums, apricots, cherries, and nectarines. They come into peak season throughout the late spring and summer, and they must be handled carefully because they typically have thin skins and flesh that can bruise easily.

Stone fruits are used in preserves, shortcakes, pies, cobblers, as well as in savory dishes. Peaches, cherries, and plums are also used in fruit brandies, wines, and cordials. All stone fruits are available canned, frozen, or dried.

Peaches are sweet and juicy, with a distinctively fuzzy skin. All fall into one of two categories: clingstone or freestone. Clingstone peaches have flesh that clings to the pit, whereas the flesh of freestone peaches separates easily. Peach flesh ranges from pale white to red in color. Peaches are a rich source of soluble fiber, and supply modest amounts of vitamin E.

Other Fruits

A wide variety of fruits falls into this category. Many are tropical fruits that are available seasonally, though some, including mango, papaya, kiwi, and star fruit, are available year-round. Tropical fruits tend to be very high in vitamin C; some supply vitamin E as well. They are often served raw, but some take well to cooked desserts and savory preparations.

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