You enter the grocery store. You buy all your favorite cereals, pastas and lunchmeats. Then you enter a familiar, yet foreign, territory—the produce aisle. You’re a bit clueless. What looks ripe? Is that even in season? Finding the best fruits and vegetables isn’t as easy as you may think. It’s a task that uses all five senses to pick out the best ripeness and quality. Here are some rules for you on picking the ultimate produce and how to store them for a longer life and greater taste:

Apples: Apples’ skin should appear smooth, matte and unbroken, without any bruises. Never mind the “worm hole”—it doesn’t hinder the flavor. They should be firm and heavy for their size.

  • Peak Season: September to May
  • Storing Them: To stay edible for multiple weeks, apples should be put in a plastic bag, kept in the crisper and away from vegetables.

Green Beans: Green beans should appear vibrant, have a smooth surface and not have visible withering. They should snap when gently bent and appear moist inside.

  • Peak Season: April to October
  • Storing Them: Green beans should be kept refrigerated, unwashed and in an unsealed bag for up to one week.

Bananas: Bananas are the sweetest when they have uniform yellow skins or small brown freckles. Avoid those with bruising and/or split skins.

  • Peak Season: Year-round
  • Storing Them: Keep unripe bananas on the counter and away from direct sunlight. Once they have ripened, refrigerate them.

Bell Peppers: Bell peppers should have a brightly colored, wrinkle-free appearance with lively green stems.

  • Peak Season: July to December
  • Storing Them: Bell peppers should be refrigerated in the crisper for up to two weeks.

Grapes: Grapes should appear plump, wrinkle-free and firmly attached to their stems. Check the stem connection for a silvery white powder (“bloom”), which keeps grapes fresher longer.

  • Peak Season: June to December
  • Storing Them: Grapes should be loosely stored, unwashed and kept in a shallow bowl in the refrigerator for up to one week.

Carrots: Carrots should be firm and smooth with a bright orange color. Don’t purchase those with patches of white on their skin or ones that are bendable or cracked at the base. The freshest carrots still have the bright green tops in place.

  • Peak Season: Year-round
  • Storing Them: Remove the greens, put carrots in a plastic bag and store them in the crisper for up to three weeks.

From now on, you won’t be walking out of the grocery store with a shriveled up peppers, wilting lettuce or a bunch of dried up grapes. Instead, you can confidently stroll into your local Sparkle Market with confidence and be the pro of the produce aisle! To find out more about produce items not listed here, check out Eat This, Not That.

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