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How to Pick Produce at the Grocery Store

Do you know how to pick produce or do you just wing it? With summer right around the corner, new fruits and vegetables will be in season soon! Some of my favorite summer fruits and veggies are watermelon, avocado, mango, pineapple, corn, and squash.

When produce is in season, it is full of flavor and nutrients. Knowing how to pick out produce at the grocery store can ensure you go home with the perfect fruit or vegetable. 

A breakdown of how to pick produce – summer favorites


Have you seen people knocking on watermelons at the store? They aren’t crazy! Knocking on watermelon can give you insight into the water content. This is an indicator for a juicy, sweet bite. A hollow sound means it has more water and is riper, compared to a dense sound that indicates the fruit hasn’t fully ripened. 

The color of the watermelon can also give you a clue of how ripe it is. Go for a dull-looking watermelon over a shiny one and look at the stripe pattern. It should alternate between dark green and light yellow stripes. Weathering spots are good to look out for as well, because they can indicate a sweet fruit. 

watermelon cooler on cutting board

Once you have your watermelon, try this watermelon strawberry lime cooler or watermelon mint ice cream


It’s best to go by the level of firmness and color when picking the perfect avocado. The perfect avocado will give slightly to the touch, but offer up some resistance, and be dark in color. If the avocado is mushy, has indentations, or the peel is torn, give it a hard pass. 

Another trick to finding perfectly ripe avocados is to remove the stem. If it easily comes off and the color is green underneath, it’s ripe. If it doesn’t come off easily and the color is brown underneath, it’s either under-ripe or overripe. 

scattering of avocados on white counter

It’s tricky to find perfect avocados at the store. If you can only find hard avocados, leave them on the counter to ripen over time. Need the avocados to ripen faster? Place them in a paper bag with an apple or banana, seal it up, and allow the next few days to expedite the ripening process. 

If your avocados on the counter are at an optimal ripeness, store them in the refrigerator until ready to use. This will significantly slow down the ripening process.  

A great summertime recipe with avocado is this Mexican cobb salad with creamy avocado dressing

Want to learn how to cut an avocado the right way? Watch this short tutorial!


Don’t judge a mango based on color. The color only indicates the variety of the fruit or how much sun exposure it got on the tree, not the ripeness. 

A ripe mango should give slightly when you squeeze it. Similar to avocados, if you can only find firm mangos, give the paper bag trick a try to speed up the process. 

Looking for a sweet, healthy treat? Use your perfect mango to make this vegan mango coconut chia pudding recipe.


Ripe pineapples have vibrant green leaves and a greenish-yellow color on the exterior. Unlike the other fruits mentioned, pineapple stops ripening as soon as it’s picked. There isn’t a way to ripen an unripe pineapple, so it’s important to pick a good one at the store. 

My favorite way to pick the perfect pineapple is by flipping it over and smelling it. If it has a sweet smell, you know you’ve got a good one. It should give a little to the touch, and the base of the pineapple should be turning white. 

Test out your skills at picking pineapple, mango, and avocado, then try this pineapple mango guacamole! The perfect flavor trifecta for a summer appetizer or dip.


It isn’t proper store etiquette to peel the corn to check for ripeness, although that is the easiest way. To maintain your shopping integrity, feel the kernels through the husk and make sure they are plump. 

Here’s what you want: 

  • Tassels should be brown and sticky
  • the husk should be bright green and wrapped tightly around the corn

What you don’t want: 

  •  if you can feel holes where kernels should be
  • tassels that are dry or black
  • husks that have tiny brown holes near the top

There’s nothing better than fresh corn, especially sautéed on the stove to bring out its natural sweetness. Try this Easy Vegan Summer Succotash that features several in season veggies! 


The perfect squash is small, firm, vibrantly colored, and free of blemishes. They are most flavorful at this point of ripeness. Try to avoid large, soft, and wrinkly squash because it could be a sign of age or possibly rotting.

Squash is incredibly versatile in the kitchen, and can be used for noodles (Bean Meatballs and Zucchini Noodles recipe), ribbons (Grilled Flatbread with Pesto Ricotta and Zucchini Ribbons recipe), and even grated (Zucchini Apple Carrot Pancakes).  

Remember these tips and don’t forget to share this post with how to pick produce so everyone is picking the only the best this summer.

Happy Shopping! 

-Carly Paige

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  3. Your breakdown of what to look for when selecting different types of produce, from avocados to watermelons, is so helpful. I especially appreciate your advice on using all five senses to assess freshness and ripeness – I never would have thought to give my ears a workout when picking out corn!

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Hi! I’m Carly Paige, a culinary nutrition expert and chef who believes that healthy doesn’t have to be frustrating, boring or restrictive. I’m here to show you how through my Simply Swapped Method so that you can feel more energized and confident from within. You’ll find tips for focusing on nutrition in the kitchen, along with plant-powered, gluten-free recipes that proves healthy can be delicious.

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