How to choose summer fruit

Summer Fruit and Melon Ripeness Chart

It’s a glorious sensation to bite into really ripe, juicy fruit and this is the time of the year to enjoy fresh melons, stone fruit and berries to your heart’s content. But how can you be sure that the peaches you just purchased will be soft and ripe with sweet juices running down your chin? Check out the easy to follow guidelines below to help sort out when summer’s bounty is at its best.

Fruit starts out as hard, sour and practically inedible. As it ripens and the sugars develop, it changes in color, becomes more aromatic, heavier and softens. Color is a clue to ripeness in some fruits but not all and some will smell fruity and ripe while others offer no scent. Fruits like tomatoes, berries and bananas tell you when they’re ripe by changing from green to bright red or yellow. Others like honeydew and cantaloupe will hint at ripeness by their aroma. Sniffing the blossom end (opposite the stem) will tell you whether the melon is ready with a floral, fruity scent.

The squeeze and sniff test is the way to go with peaches, plums and nectarines. Don’t press with your fingers as it may bruise the fruit. Hold it in the palm of your hand and squeeze gently. If rock hard, it isn’t ripe and needs a few days to soften. On the other hand, if the fruit is squishy it’s over ripe. You’ll know the fruit is ready to eat when it yields a gentle give when lightly pressed and smells, well, fruity.

The last general indicator of ripe fruit is weight. Ripe fruit is heavy for its size. Feel around in the bin and pick up a few in order to choose the heaviest specimens. A heavy tomato, melon or peach is usually a good one.

Type

Look

Feel

Smell

Watermelon (June-September)
Do not ripen after harvest. Store at room temperature up to 5 days. Keep cut melon refrigerated.
Look for a yellow spot on bottom where it rested in the field. If it’s white or light green look for another melon as it’s not ripe. Should feel heavy for its size. Pick up a few and choose the heaviest. Knock with your knuckle as if knocking on a door. It should have a dull thump. Unlike most melons, a ripe watermelon has no detectable smell until cut.
Cantaloupe (June-September)
Do not sweeten after harvest but will soften. Store at room temperature 2 to 3 days. Keep cut melon refrigerated.
Look for golden tinted skin, not green and raised netting. The stem end (indented dot) should be slightly indented with no soft, moist areas. The blossom end (button end) should give slightly when pressed. Avoid melons with soft spots or bruising. Sniff the blossom end (button end) of room temperature fruit for a strong sweet smell.
Honeydew (May-October)
Do not sweeten after harvest but will soften. Store at room temperature up to 3 days, Keep cut melon refrigerated.
Look for creamy white to yellow color and dull, not shiny skin with some freckling (that’s the sugar coming to the surface). Shake to determine if the seeds are loose inside. If so, the melon is ripe. Avoid melons with soft spots or bruising. Sniff the blossom end (button end) of room temperature fruit for a strong sweet smell.
Honeyrock (July-August)
Do not sweeten after harvest but will soften. Store at room temperature up to 3 days. Keep cut melon refrigerated.
Look for creamy yellow skin. The stem end (indented dot) should be slightly indented with no soft, moist areas. The blossom end (button end) should give slightly when pressed. Avoid melons with soft spots or bruising. Sniff the blossom end (button end) of room temperature fruit for a strong, sweet smell.
Peaches (May-September)
Will ripen after harvest. Keep at room temperature until ripe then refrigerate for one or two days before using. 
Look for deep golden color behind the reddish blush skin and slightly shriveled skin around the stem end. Should feel heavy for its size with slight give when gently squeezed. Allow to ripen for up to a few days on the kitchen counter then refrigerate. Peaches should smell like you want them to taste, sweet and floral. Sniff out the most aromatic fruit for the best taste.
Nectarines (June-September)
Will ripen after harvest. Keep at room temperature for 2 to 3 days then refrigerate for a day or so before using. 
Choose medium to large fruit with deep orangey-yellow background color. Inspect the stem end and avoid fruit with green background color there. Should feel heavy for its size with slight give then gently squeezed. Allow to ripen for up to a few days on the kitchen counter then refrigerate. Nectarines should smell like you want them to taste, sweet and floral. Sniff out the most aromatic fruit for the best taste.
Plums (May-October)
Will ripen after harvest. Keep at room temperature for 2 to 3 days then refrigerate up to 1 week before using
Color is no indication of ripeness but a whitish bloom indicates good handling. Look for smooth skin with no wrinkles or bruising. Should be firm but not hard with a little give when lightly squeezed. Avoid rock hard fruit as it will probably never ripen fully. Though not as aromatic as nectarines or peaches, ripe plums have a pleasant fruity, floral aroma when at room temperature.
Avocado (May-September)
Ripens after harvest. Keep at room temperature for up to 4 days then when softened, refrigerate up to 2 days. 
Color alone may not tell the whole story. A Hass avocado will turn dark green or black as it ripens while other varieties will retain their light green skin when ripe. Gently squeeze fruit in the palm of your hand. Ripe avocado will be firm but will yield to gentle pressure. Another sign is to peel back the stem. If it removes easily and the flesh is green, the avocado is ripe. If brown, the fruit is overripe. If stem doesn’t remove, it’s not ripe. Avocados have no smell.
Mango (Available year round)
Ripens after harvest.Keep at room temperature until ripe then refrigerate up to 5 days. 
Do not focus on color but a deep golden hue with some green and red is the most widely available. Freckles can be an indicator of ripeness. Gently squeeze fruit in the palm of your hand. Ripe mange will be firm but will yield to gentle pressure. It should feel heavy for its size. Sniff the stem end for a strong fruity, sweet smell.

Tips:

  • To speed-ripen fruit, place it in a paper bag with an apple or banana and leave at room temperature.
  • Check frequently for ripeness and once ripe (1 or 2 days), refrigerate, tightly wrapped for up to a few days or until you are ready to use it.
  • Avoid refrigerating unripened fruit as the cold slows the ripening process and the fruit may become mealy and never ripen fully.
  • Avoid fruit with bruises or soft spots.
  • If ripening fruit on the kitchen counter, arrange it so that it has space between them, not touching for best results.
  • Ripe, cut avocado will keep for a day or so refrigerated and stored in a zip lock bag with a slice of onion.
Carla Snyder
Posted by: Carla Snyder
Carla has spent the past 30 years in the food world as a caterer, artisan baker, cooking school teacher, food writer and author of 6 cook books including the James Beard nominated Big Book of Appetizers. Her passion is sharing fresh, cooked-from-scratch weeknight meals that cut prep time and practically eliminate that nightly sink full of dishes. Look for Carla on Facebook, Twitter (carlacooks), Pinterest and at ravenouskitchen.com where she blogs about everything from cooking for two to easy weekend entertaining for a crowd.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *