Demand freshness! Check the characteristic signs of freshness such as bright, lively color and crispness. Vegetables are usually at their best quality and price at the peak of their season.
Fresh vegetables are key ingredients in the kitchen. With the right preparation and some of your homemade creativity, they make everyday meals just as magical as special occasions.
Don't buy because of low price alone. It doesn't pay to buy more vegetables than you can properly store in your refrigerator or use without waste.
How do you know whether your cabbage is ready to cook or your peppers are a little too ripe?
Use the following handy Buying Guide for Vegetables to find and buy the freshest vegetables available, plus check out all the recipes:
Many beets are sold in bunches with the tops still attached, while others are sold with the tops removed. Look for beets that are firm, round, with a slender tap root (the large main root), a rich, deep red color, and smooth over most of the surface. If beets are bunched, you can judge their freshness fairly accurately by the condition of the tops. Badly wilted or decayed tops indicate a lack of freshness, but the roots may be satisfactory if they are firm.
Avoid elongated beets with round, scaly areas around the top surface -- these will be tough, fibrous, and strong-flavored. Also avoid wilted, flabby beets -- they have been exposed to the air too long.
As the beet greens are very nutritious, cook them as you would fresh spinach leaves.
When purchasing cauliflower, look for a clean, creamy white, compact curd in which the bud clusters are not separated. Spotted or dull-colored cauliflower should be avoided, as well as those in which small flowers appear.
Heads that are surrounded by many thick green leaves are better protected and will be fresher. As its size is not related to its quality, choose one that best suits your needs.
Celery roots can range in size from that of an apple to the size of a small cantaloupe. It is available in winter. Select firm, hard roots that are about baseball size and feel heavy. Often the bigger ones have voids or fibrous cores. If the stems and leaves are attached, they should be fresh and green. Trim side roots and leaves and store in refrigeration at 32oF. with high humidity (well for a long time in a cool, dark place. This vegetable does not stand up to freezing.
Check out my informational web page on Celeriac (Celery Root).
As with any root crop, look for Chinese radishes that are free of growth cracks and bruises with firm and crisp roots. Chinese radishes keep well in refrigeration if they are placed in a sealed container or plastic bag to maintain high humidity.
Check out my informational web page on Daikon Radish.
Smaller, immature eggplants are best. Full-size puffy ones may have hard seeds and can be bitter. Choose a firm, smooth-skinned eggplant that is heavy for its size; avoid those with soft or brown spots. Gently push with your thumb or forefinger. If the flesh gives slightly but then bounces back, it is ripe. If the indentation remains, it is overripe and the insides will be mushy. If there is no give, the eggplant was picked too early. Also make sure an eggplant isn't dry inside, knock on it with your knuckles. If you hear a hollow sound, don't buy it. NOTE: Whether or not there is an appreciable difference, I don't know.
Kale is overflowing with essential nutrients such as calcium, lutein, iron, and Vitamins A, C, and K. Kale has seven times the beta-carotene of broccoli and ten times more lutein. Kale is rich in chlorophyll and provides much needed fiber so lacking in the daily diet of processed food eating Americans.
Check out my informational article on Kale - Healthy Kale
Radicchio has a distinct bittersweet flavor similar to endive.Radicchio is available year round. When selecting radicchio, look for firm white bases. The leaves should have no blemishes, holes or browining at the edge. Choose smaller heads than you usually do for head lettuce.
Check out my informational web page on Radicchio.
Summer squash includes those varieties which are harvested while still immature and when the entire squash is tender and edible. They include the yellow Crookneck, the large Straight neck, the greenish-white Patty Pan, and the slender green Zucchini. Some of these squash are available at all times of the year.
Look for squash that are tender and well developed, firm, and fresh-appearing. You can identify a tender squash, because the skin is glossy instead of dull, and it is neither hard nor tough. Avoid stale or over mature squash, which will have a dull appearance and a hard, tough surface. Such squash usually have enlarged seeds and dry, stringy flesh. Also avoid squash with discolored or pitted areas.
Look for full maturity, indicated by a hard, tough rind. Also look for squash that is heavy for its size (meaning a thick wall and more edible flesh). Slight variations in skin color do not affect flavor.
Avoid any squash with cuts, punctures, sunken spots, or moldy spots on the rind. These are indications of decay. A tender rind indicates immaturity, which is a sign of poor eating quality in winter squash varieties.
Sweet potatoes should be uniformly light-tan-colored.Look for firm sweet potatoes with smooth, bright, uniformly colored skins, free from signs of decay. Because they are more perishable than white potatoes, extra care should be used in selecting sweet potatoes. Avoid sweet potatoes with worm holes, cuts, grub injury, or any other defects which penetrate the skin; this causes waste and can readily lead to decay. Even if you cut away the decayed portion, the remainder of the potato flesh may have a bad taste.
Check out my informational web page on Sweet Potato.
They can range in size from about an inch in diameter to the size of apricots. They are covered by a papery husk which may range from the pale green color of the fruit itself to a light grocery-bag brown. Choose small tomatillos. They are sweeter than the larger, golf-ball-size ones. The condition of the "husk" is a good indication of the freshness of the fruit. The husk should be light brown and fresh looking (not shriveled and dried). Unlike tomatoes, tomatillos should be firm and free of defects. The husks are inedible and should be removed before use.