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|Written by Miss Smartypants|
|Monday, 29 June 2009 00:00|
Dear Miss Smartypants,
So last year I was a college freshman. This summer I'm living on my own for the first time ever. It's going pretty well, and I think I'm doing okay with it. There's just one thing. Last year, I lived in residence. I had a meal plan. Now I'm doing my own cooking. I go to the grocery store, and I've realized something. I have no idea how to pick out fresh produce. Like, none. I get by on frozen stuff, but I'm pretty sure that one of these days I'm going to want to bite into an apple or something. So, what do I do?
1) I cannot recommend the Food Network enough in situations like this. I realize your money's probably tight, and I have no idea what kind of TV situation you have going on (if any), but get the Food Network if you can. Pretty much every chef on there works with the freshest of ingredients. A lot of the time, particularly when they are using less common items, they explain how to pick out the best squash, asparagus, strawberries, whatever. Jamie at Home is especially good for this because Jamie Oliver is working from his own garden, so he goes out there and spells out what he's looking for.
2) Check out Your Produce Man. It's the transcripts from what appears to be daily news segments that I really wish I could watch because this guy is kind of bananas. As out there as he may be, he does a good job of explaining what a fresh whatever-he's-raving-about looks like, and he gives you a little trivia to boot! You can also use their search function to learn more about a specific item you are interested in. For example, my search for "banana" produced (heh) 58 results. That's a lot of banana information.
3) After that, there are specific rules I could set out for all manner of fruits and vegetables (e.g. asparagus tips should be tight; pineapple leaves should be slightly loose; knock on watermelons - a deep resonance = a good watermelon; if you pick up any kind of melon and it's much heavier than you think it looks, it's started to rot), but that would get redundant quickly. You can start with the videos here. General guidelines:
Strawberries don't ripen off the vine,