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5 Tips to Pick Fresher Produce

By the time produce reaches supermarket shelves, its shelf life is nearly depleted. Check out these insider secrets on how to squeeze that extra day of freshness out of your purchased produce.


With some types of produce lasting less than 24 hours after purchase at the grocery store, the savvy produce consumer needs to choose their produce carefully.

But what if you have no idea how pick the apple that will last that extra day? What if you did not learn the secrets from that one friend who is a cooking enthusiast?

We have you covered. After some in-depth research, here are 5 of the best tips we could find on selecting the freshest produce that will last the longest.

1. Know some basic physical inspection tactics:  

Although each type of produce does have a slightly different profile in terms of freshness indicators (as described in this article by TheKitchn.com), there are a lot of commonalities to picking the freshest produce if you do not have the time to get into specifics. 

Some good rules of thumb:
a. 
Firmness over Softness: Any produce with significant shelf life should be relatively firm to the touch. For types of produce with stalks like broccoli or celery, focus on the firmness of the tip of the stalks.

b.
Earth-Like Smell over aromatic: Especially for soft tissue produce like tomatoes, focus on the smell of the produce, it should be earthy and less aromatic.

c.
More heavy over less heavy: Fresher produce is heavier as a general rule of thumb. This is not to be confused with volume. Produce may become more voluminous with aging but will also have a lighter gross weight. 

2.    Inspect the root or stem of the produce:

In many types of produce, the stem is the key indicator of the freshness. Damage from transport or temperature damage may cause slight imperfections on the skin of the produce, and those may increase the rate at which the produce goes bad, but the color, smell, and overall heartiness of the stem is what should be focused on. 

3. Ask an employee: 

Asking a produce section employee some basic questions can make your life a lot easier and will result in your purchased produce having a lot more longevity. Most produce stocking staff will have great intel and advice on which produce is the most fresh and recently stocked, and are glad to help. Some basic questions for produce stockers:

a. What types of produce have been restocked the most today?

b. How does the quality of this batch of ______ compare to the average batch?

c. Which produce types have been coming in the most damaged from shipment?


Sample from figure on temperature sensativity for different types of produce
Sample from figure on temperature sensativity for different types of produce Source: Frontline Services AU

4. Pay attention to height of produce display: 

Produce items that need to be sold quickly are more likely to be prominently displayed. Research done in 2014 by Graham Kendall of Phys.org  suggests that produce markets will employ the “eye level is buy level” theory when displaying produce for sale.

Produce at eye level is most consistently noticed and considered for purchase by shoppers and therefore is more likely to have spent more time on the floor than far-from reach produce at the bottom or top of display shelves.

Next time you are in the produce section, compare the freshness quality of produce displayed at eye level with produce displayed in hard to reach areas, you will almost certainly find the latter to be more fresh (and on average cheaper, according to Kendall). 

The eye level is buy level, research indicates
The eye level is buy level, research indicates

5. Keep in mind the seasonality of produce

In this day and age many types of produce are available year-round. Most of us have forgotten the basic seasonality of produce. But out of season produce does have to travel longer distances to customers. 

Remembering seasonality, therefore, can still help you make choices that are more likely to stay fresh after purchase. 

Some rules of thumb for produce seasonality:

a.      
Apricots, Blueberries, Blackberries, and Cherries have some of the most limited availability in terms of seasonality. Their freshness is more likely to be affected by the time of the year.

b.     
May and June have the most types of produce in season, followed by September – November. The availability for July and August is not much better than winter months, according to research by agricultralinstitute.org

c.      
Apples, Broccoli, and Carrots have excellent seasonality consistency, their freshness is less likely to be determined by the time of year.

 

 

Be sure to keep these tips in mind next time you go shopping for produce. The savings from more careful produce selection will add up quickly!

Hazel Technologies is working on other high tech solutions to extend the lifespan of fresh produce. Check out our project here.

About the Author

HazelBlog Staff

Hazel Technologies 

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