Choosing the Best Produce
When buying an artichoke look for one that is dark green and feels heavy for its size. They can be boiled, steamed or grilled.
Arugula, also called rocket, is a pungent, nutty green. It makes delicious salads but can work as a side or be added to soups. Large arugula leaves can be bitter, so try to use small baby and medium sized leaves.
Look for crisp firm stalks. Avoid limp or shriveled spears. Green is the most readily found but white is also available at times and tends to be expensive. Place upright in a jar with water and keep in the refrigerator until ready to cook. To prepare for cooking, snap off the white woody part. Peel away the outer skin from the base to the tip. The thinner varieties do not need to be peeled. One pound of asparagus equals twenty stalks.
Gently push the skin to determine the ripeness. The avocado will yield slightly to pressure when it is ready to use. Avoid the soft or mushy ones. If an avocado is hard, it will take 2-4 days to ripen. You can speed this up by placing it in a brown paper bag until ripe. Do not refrigerate until cut, just store them on the kitchen counter.
Beets should have crisp looking greens, when attached. If just buying the bulbs, they should be firm with fairly smooth skin. Buy small or medium bulbs in any color. Wash but do not trim or peel the skin before cooking so the juices will not leach out.
Look for firm peppers with smooth skin. Avoid shriveled or ones that have soft spots or moldy stems.
Look for crisp, bright green leaves and stalks. Avoid any with brown spots or wilted leaves. Bok Choy is great to use in stir-fry or salads.
Look for bright green, crisp stalks, with tightly- closed buds not yellow. Can be steamed, roasted or boiled.
A hybrid of broccoli and Chinese broccoli that should have bright green leaves and stalks. Avoid wilted and limp bunches.
Has a slightly bitter flavor. Look for deep green and crisp leaves not wilted or yellow.
Look for small, brightly colored without wilted leaves. Cook lightly until fresh, tender and brightly colored. Overcooked Brussels sprouts tend to get foul smelling. Fresh is better than frozen. One pound of Brussels sprouts equals four cups.
Heavy, firmly packed heads with crisp leaves without discoloration are best. Many different varieties like Red, Green, Napa or Savoy. Cabbage can be braised, steamed, stir-fried or eaten raw in salads.
Look for firm, heavy, smooth-skinned carrots without cracks. Loose carrots are usually some of the sweetest, while those in plastic bags tend to be a little slick and rubbery. One pound of carrots equals three cups of diced carrots.
Look for a firm head with bright colored leaves of creamy white. Avoid wilted leaves or brown spots on the top edges of head.
Select those with shiny and crisp stalks, avoiding any with yellow or brown spots.
Choose chile peppers that are glossy and firm without shriveling or soft spots.
Sometimes jalapeños will have a crack at the stem but other varieties should not.
Sometimes mistakenly labeled pasilla in North America, poblanos are medium- hot peppers with a rich, sweet flavor. Delicious when stuffed.
Mildly spicy with a peppery flavor. They are good to stuff or when chopped and added to soups.
Look for a coconut that is free of mold and is heavy, with firm “eyes.” Shake to make sure there is a lot of milk inside.
It is best to buy corn that is still in the husks. Look for green husks with plump kernels. Avoid corn that looks dried out. When you peel back the husks, the silks should look green and be a little sticky.
Cucumbers should be firm without shriveling or discoloration. Check the ends for firmness; they tend to get soft first. English Hot House cucumbers have a mild flavor, small seeds and thin skin that requires no peeling.