Thursday, September 17, 2009

Episode 20 - Watermelon

On this episode learn how to choose, what might be the most difficult fruit to pick right, the watermelon.

The watermelon is approximately 92 percent water and for this reason it's important to choose watermelons that are heavy for their size, very heavy!

Watermelons possess many clues that you can feel, hear, and see which tell you whether or not they are ripe. Most important of these are a watermelon's shape, weight, and the sound it makes when tapped.

In order to perform the "thump" test (the test that allows you to hear if a melon is ripe) you must follow a few basic steps. First you want to make sure you are holding the melon away from your body. Next use an open hand to tap the watermelon as you would a bongo drum. Finally listen for a sound that is similar to a bongo drum except with a slightly deeper sound.

This technique is a skill as well as an art and the more times you perform it, the better you'll get at picking ripe watermelons.

All of these tips, tricks, and techniques require practice. Try to find as many of these tips as possible in each watermelon you choose but don't feel the need to find them all in each and every melon. The more clues you can find to a watermelon's ripeness the better your chance of getting that perfect melon will be. Get out there and practice but most of all enjoy!

Show notes (i.e. the script from the show)

I refer to the watermelon as the holy grail of fruit selecting technique because it's probably the hardest item in the produce department to pick out right and it's probably the number one item I was asked to help peolple choose.

I like to say picking out watermelons is 70% skill, 20% art, and 10% luck.

So let's learn the skills that you'll need to pick out your prefect watermelon.

The watermelon you are choosing should be symmetrical meaning that it should be the same shape all around the melon, no flat spot or one side being bigger than the other. The skin should be a dull green as opposed to shiny which could mean the melon isn't quite ripe.

Look for a pale, creamy, yellow spot on one side of the melon, this spot is where the melon sat on the ground while it ripened in the sun. A spot that is white instead of yellow is good indicator that it was not allowed to fully ripen and you want to avoid these melons.

Next pick up the melon and notice why its called a WATERmelon, it's heavy or at least it should be, very, very heavy especially for it's size. The watermelon is appropriately names since it is made up of 92% water!. For this reason each melon you choose should be heavy for its size. This is hard to understand at first but after you pick up enough melons you get used to what this feels like. So always make sure to pick up more than just one melon when shopping for that perfect fruit.

Other indicators of ripeness include a still attached dry stem and sugar spots or "bee stings." These look like little black, molasses spots on the melon or small areas of dry patches.

Finally and maybe the most difficult part, this is where the skill meets the art, the all important tap or thump test.

I know you've seen that person standing in the produce department over a large bin of watermelons tapping, thumping, flicking or listening to many different melons. But what are they listening for? Would they know the right sound when they heard it? Probably not.

The answer is simple but perhaps a little hard to perfect. The melon should sound like a bongo drum when tapped. Make sure to hold the melon away from your body and using an open hand, tap it like you would a bongo drum. Listen for a deeper sound than you would hear from a bongo drum. A solid sound or one that sounds too hollow should probably be passed. You may also notice that the bottom of the melon, the part that you are holding with your other hand, the one not doing the tapping, vibrates. This is also a good indicator of ripeness.

In the end, try to put all of these indicators together into one melon however do not expect to find them all in each melon. Try to get as close as possible with the main indicators, heavy, symmetrical, and a bongo drum sound mixed with vibration and you should get yourself a good tasting watermelon each time!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Episode 19 - Mangosteen

On this episode of the Produce Picker Podcast we take a look at a particularly exotic fruit, the Mangosteen.

Learn how to pick, open, and eat a Mangosteen. This delicious fruit is relatively new to the U.S. and is still hard to find. However, if you are able to buy one of these, it's worth a try.

The Mangosteen has a citrus like flavor and is quite refreshing. The inside looks like a white tangerine but has its own unique taste.

Much like the pomegranate, blueberry, and cranberry the Mangosteen is very high in antioxidants which is sure to make a much sought after fruit in the future.

Ask your local produce person to order you some Mangosteen today and give them a try, you won't be disappointed.

Special thanks to my friends at Frieda's Produce for sending us a case to sample and feature on our show!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Episode 18 - Banana Tips

On this episode I demonstrate three of my favorite tips regarding bananas.

Can you put bananas in the refrigerator? How about putting them in the freezer?

Learn how to extend the life of your bananas and a tip that is simple yet somewhat magical. It really works!

These tips and more on this episode of the Produce Picker Podcast.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Choosing and Storing Potatoes and "New" Potatoes

Make sure when choosing potatoes that the skin of the potato is not sprouting, wrinkled, or soft (see right).

Whether you're choosing a brown (i.e. russet, baking), white potato, or yellow (i.e. yukon) potato check to make sure that the skin does not appear to be green (see below. Bottom right potato shows greening).

When potatoes are exposed to light, as they are in grocery stores and farmers markets, they begin to build up toxins. This process will manifest itself on the potato as a greening of the skin. It may appear that the green color is coming from under the native color (i.e. brown, yellow, white) of the potato. A potato that is sprouting, wrinkled, soft and/or appears to have a green coloring under its skin is bad. Eating too many green potatoes can actually be toxic to your system and make you sick. So next time you're choosing potatoes make sure to take a good look at its skin coloring and avoid the green. If you find that you have a section of your potato that has a green coloring you can go ahead and cut out this section before cooking or simply discard the potato.

fun fact: Bagged potatoes often come in a tinted, brown colored bag. These bags are designed to help reduce the potato's exposure to light thus reducing the chances that the potato will become toxic (green).

Have you heard the term "new" potatoes? Often times people think this refers to the size of the potato. A "new" potato actually means just what it sounds like, new. These are potatoes that have been harvested earlier than normal which often results in a thinner, softer, more tender skin. While these potatoes are generally smaller in size, the term "new" potato does not necessarily mean each "new" potato will be small. Sometimes called "creamers" and/or "fingerlings" (see right, do you see any bad ones?), "new" potatoes come in many colors such as red, purple, yellow, and white. Often times you can tell a "new" potato because its skin will flake off easily. Run your thumb accross the surface of a "new" potato and you'll notice that the skin comes off easily or parts of the skin may already be missing.

Make sure to store your potatoes in a cool, dry and dark environment. Avoid putting them in the refrigerator (many people do this) as it will only make the potato have an uncharacteristic sweet flavor (because the starch turns to sugar) and can result in them turning a dark color once cooked. Potatoes that are stored properly at around 50 degrees can last up to a couple of months!

Ray a.k.a. The Produce Picker

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images provided by Flickr community (ideath, chickeninthewoods, Laura Bell) via creative commons license.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Episode 17 - Persimmons

It's Fall which means it's time for Persimmons!

In season from September through December, the Fuyu persimmon also known as Sharon fruit should be chosen while still firm. Fuyu's should have a nice overall orange coloring with a smooth, tight skin and a green, leafy top.

If your Fuyu persimmon is still a little green in color, let it ripen on the counter until it has reached an overall orange coloring but not so long that the skin becomes shriveled or starts to become soft. Fuyu's are best eaten while still firm. They will have a consistency something close to an apple or pear.

The two most commonly found persimmons are the Fuyu, which you can see in this episode, and the Hachiya (right) which is generally used for cooking.

Use the Fuyu persimmon as a garnish in salads or deserts or simply eat out of hand after washing and peeling away the skin.

*no cameras were harmed in the making of this podcast. In fact, I didn't even really hit the camera with the persimmon at all;)

Hachiya persimmon picture courtesy flickr user: bsterling via cc license.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Episode 16 - Picking Pumpkins - A Halloween Special

In this episode of the Produce Picker Podcast we leave the kitchen and go outside to the pumpkin patch to find out how kids pick perfect pumpkins!

Join us on this special Halloween edition and send us your pictures of your perfect pumpkins!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Food Newscast

Time for another edition of Food Newscast - Your source for fresh fruit and veggie headlines.

This episode features a two little girls being banned for running their own produce stand, farmers markets now accepting food stamps, people looking for economic relief in their own backyards, and the irradiation of lettuce and spinach.