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Picking and Storing Your Produce, an Alphabetical Guide (A – C)

Artichokes: Choose ‘chokes that are small and feel a teeny bit heavy in your hand, with leaves that squeak a little when you squeeze them. California artichokes are usually available year-round, but peak season is March through May. Sprinkle them with a little bit of water and store in a plastic bag in your fridge – they should last for about a week.

Asparagus: Go for smooth-looking stalks with closed tips and bright green color; they’re especially fresh in the spring. You can store asparagus spears in the fridge standing upright in a glass with an inch of water in it, like a little bouquet of flowers, and they’ll last for a couple of days.

Avocado: If it feels squishy, that avocado is overripe. Pass! If it feels rock-hard it’s not ready to go. To help pit ripen, leave it in a bowl with apples or bananas. (Fun fact: Apples and bananas emit gasses that cause the fruit around them to ripen more quickly.) once they are ripe, store them in the fridge and they’ll stay fresh for about a week. You can find avocados year-round.

Bananas: Buy them when they still have a tiny bit of a green hue; they’ll keep it ripening when you get them home. Remember to keep them away from other fruit if you want both them and the other fruit to last longer. When they start to turn brown, peel them and store them in a plastic bag in the freezer for smoothies.

Beets: They should be firm and have a bright red or orange color. White spots are a no-no. Beets are in season in spring and fall, and they’ll stay fresh in your refrigerator for almost two weeks.

Broccoli: Look for heads that are firm and compact, with a bright or deep green color. Yellow is not a good sign. Don’t yield for yellow. Broccoli is available year-round, but peak season is October to April. Keep it in a bag in your vegetable drawer, and it should stay good for up to ten days.

Brussel Sprouts: You want bright green sprouts with tight leaves. The smaller the sprouts, the more tender they’ll be. Peak season runs from September to mid-February, but you can generally find them year-round. Refrigerate them, and you’ll get the best taste if you eat them within three to four days.

Cabbage: It should be firm and feel heavy in your hand.

Cantaloupe: Give it a whiff- it should smell sweet, but not too sweet; too sweet means overripe, and you want to get as much mileage out of it as you can. If it feels really hard, you can let it ripen a bit more on your countertop. PS Shake a cantaloupe next to your ear before you buy it. It won’t make a damn, difference, but you’ll sure look like you know what you’re doing. Summertime is cantaloupe time; it’s tastiest from June through August.

Carrots: You might assume that you want the ones that look smooth and firm, with a nice orange color. You know, like a snack Bugs Bunny would want to gnaw on. But those knobby ones from the farmers’ market are just as awesome. and if you haven’ tasted yellow or purple carrots, get on that! You can find carrots at the market pretty much year-round, but fall is their optimal season. Store the greens separately because thy can cause carrots to spoil more quickly (you can use them in soups and salads!), and keep the carrots in an open plastic bag in the fridge. They’re a hardy veg and should stay good for up to two weeks.

Cauliflower: Go for white – or cream-colored tight curds (I’ve always wanted tighter curds) that have nice green jackets surrounding them Cauliflower knows how to accessorize. It’s available year-round, but peak season is the fall. Wash it as you eat it, and keep the rest in the refrigerator, stem-side up, for up to five days.

Celery: Pick firm stalks with a light – to medium-green color and a little bit of a glossy look. They’re available all year, but mid- to- late summer is prime time. Stash in the fridge for up to a week and slice just before using.

Citrus (lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruits): You want bright color and smooth skin that feels a little springy to the touch. Note: You don’t have to get th biggest one in the bin; sometimes big – watery. And by all means, give your citrus a sniff; it has such a nice scent! Any time is a good time to buy citrus, but late winter is primo. Lemons, limes, oranges, and grapefruits will stay fresh at room temperature for about a week, and you can extend their life in the fridge for another week.

Corn (in the husk): Look for tight green husks. The silk flowing out of the husks should be a light color and not too brown. Corn at the market means summertime is here! Store it in the refrigerator un-shucked and eat it within two days or buying it for the sweetest flavor.

Cucumbers: Pick cukes with a vibrant green color that feel firm from top to bottom. Stroke the cucumber – it’s not illegal. (By the way, I figured out only recently that a pickle was really a pickled cucumber. So you can see how badly I need this kind of information.) You’ll find them year-round, but peak season is May through July. Store cucumbers at room temperature; they’ll only stay fresh in the refrigerator for up to three days.

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