How to Pick the Best, Freshest Veggies Part Two

September 16, 2010

As promised, here is part two of “How to Pick the Best Freshest Veggies.”

As promised, here is part two of “How to Pick the Best Freshest Veggies.” We all know how important it is to eat a variety of fruits and veggies; SupermarketGuru wants you to be well equipped when heading to your local farmers’ market or produce section of your grocer so you can pick the freshest veggies, which ultimately pack more nutrition and flavor!

Onions, garlic and shallots: These vegetables are excellent for adding seasoning to any dish and a great balance for fat in the diet. Look for hard-to-the-touch selections; skins should be tight to the bulbs, with no growing green shoots. Onions are white, red or yellow; garlic comes in small or gigantic bulbs, and shallots are mild smaller members of the onion family with a reddish-brown skin and a bulb the size of a very large clove of garlic. Green onions and leeks are onions that have been allowed to sprout. The green stems on green onions (aka scallions) are edible; the greenest part on leeks and spring red onions are not.

Peppers: Whether round bell peppers or other versions, these should look glossy and smooth, and should not be wrinkled, have black spots or tears. Fresh chilies should be refrigerated, unwrapped; bell peppers come in mini and regular sizes in white, yellow, purple, green, red, chocolate, and orange.

Radishes: Root vegetables that add tang and crunch. Daikon is a Japanese-style white radish shaped like a parsnip; red and white radishes are small and round or oblong. All should look clean with smooth skins; they should be firm without any soft spots or browning.

Other root vegetables: Parsnips, turnips and rutabagas should be creamy white to pale yellow, with smooth skins and a heavy firmness to the touch. Carrots, now available in mini, regular and maxi sizes, are also showing up in classic orange, pale yellow and deep red versions. Bumps or ridges are normal, but avoid those that are cracked, split or otherwise showing rough handling. An old or overgrown vegetable will have an elaborately hairy root; avoid these.

Sprouts: These gossamer threads “sprout” from various seeds or veggies and include daikon, alfalfa, mung bean and broccoli, although there are legions available. Look for clean, substantial sprouts with no wilting or softness.

Squash and gourds: Tough-skinned vegetables with a core that becomes soft and mildly flavorful when baked or steamed. The category has many varieties; fall favorites include white or orange mini to max pumpkin, and Hubbard and acorn squashes; a few similar ones are grown for winter consumption. Look for smooth skins, heavy weight for the size, and no soft spots. Spaghetti squash is one anomaly because its meat is not solid mashable pulp but strings or “spaghetti” like strands that can be sauced just like pasta (though it tastes like a squash).

Tomatoes: These have been tossed back and forth between categories as a fruit then a vegetable, and vegetable it is today. The varieties are legion: mini cherry-sized tomatoes in yellow, orange or red and are great alone or in salads; elongated red romas ideal for sauces; and round ones in red, orange, yellow, green, and variegated colors in heirloom styles grown from ancient preserved seeds, hothouse tomatoes raised in greenhouses, and vine-ripened. They produce a more flavorful richer taste when eaten at room temperature. Avoid those with white mold, black spots, withering or softness; they should be firm but not hard to the touch.

Tubers: Yams, sweet potatoes and potatoes (known in the trade as white potatoes) are available in tiny to large sizes. The smaller they are the less time they take to cook. Skins should be clean, fairly smooth and without signs of mold, greenish overcast or dark bruises or cuts. “White” potatoes come in white, golden yellow and purple, with skins that are brown, beige, red, and purple. Considered the Mexican potato or yam bean, Jicama are round brown-skinned vegetables that are pure white inside and eaten raw; they add crispness and crunch to salads and have a mild sweet taste. Jicamas should feel heavy for its size, and be hard as a baseball. Store at room temperature; store in the refrigerator after it has been cut, and cover with plastic to avoid browning and wilting.