Fruits are some of the healthiest foods that we can eat. Most, if not all diets, include servings of fresh fruit daily to be healthy. The thing with this kind of food is that they need to be ripe in order to be savored and appreciated. Some can be eaten unripe but these are few and far between. Eating unripe fruits might give you a mild stomach ache or land you to the hospital in severe cases. On the other hand, over ripe fruits can be unappetizing to eat so it is best to leave those alone.
Those who have their own fruit trees may be more savvy to the signs of ripeness and will know just by looking. A lot of local fruit vendors are only too willing to share their expertise when it comes to choosing ripe fruit. Some of us learn tips and tricks that our parents or even our grandparents may have practiced while others have come to realize some useful ideas on their own. Our instincts are actually quite handy especially when it comes to something as basic as looking for something good to eat. And with the world wide web at our disposal, there are so many different ways to learn how to tell if fruit is ripe or not.
While not all fruit ripens the same way, one thing that you can be assured of when it comes to most fruit is their smell. A lot of fruit, especially tropical fruit, smell sweet and yummy (some may argue that durian and jackfruit will never, ever smell yummy!) even from a distance. Up close, you can try to smell the area where the produce has been cut from their original stem. This is true of most citrus fruits, mangoes, and papayas. Even if the stem is still in the blossom part, there should still be a fruity smell which is indicative of whether it is ripe enough to eat or not. Strawberries and pineapples are also among those that have a strong ripe aroma that indicates they are ripe and sweet. A sickly, sweet smell can also be a sign of being overripe.
Another dead giveaway of ripe fruit is their appearance. Specific fruits turn into specific colors when they are good to eat. The common bananas turn into a beautiful yellow when they are ripe and so do most types of mangoes. Now, I would say bananas are the exception when it comes to color and being over ripe. If they start turning dark brown they are extra sweet and perfect for something like banana bread. You should be familiar with your favorite produce and learn what color they are when they are just right to eat. A lot of people from different countries eat mangoes while they are still unripe and they savor the sour, tangy taste that some mangoes have while they are still green.
Pineapples also turn a little bit yellow around the lower edges of their “eyes” when they are ripe. Please note that unripe pineapples are potentially toxic and you should watch out when choosing these particular fruits. Most apples turn a delicious shade of red when they are ripe and there is also a faint ripe smell near their blossom end. It is safe to say that the more intense the color, the more intense the flavor is for most ripe fruits.
The feel of some fruits can also be a sign that they are ripe and good to eat. Squeezing is a good way to check if what you have in your hand is ripe or not. The fruit should give a little when you give it a firm but light squeeze, anything stronger may damage the fruit and you will end up buying all that you have rough handled.
Watermelons and most other melon varieties may be difficult to judge with this kind of test because their rind is especially hard. There are some individuals who are very good at “thumping” melons and they know just what to look for when they give melons a resounding thump. The same goes with apples and pineapples. Soft spots on apples indicate that they have been mishandled or dropped. Pineapples tend to be softer or less firm in their bottoms if they are ripe so you can try to check there. Another tip to check for ripeness in a pineapple is to try and pull out one of its leaves; if the leaf comes off with little effort, then it is ripe.
Some types of citrus fall off the tree when they are good enough to eat and those who grow these types just need to give their tree or some of its branches a strong shake to encourage these to fall off. Most of the fruit from the trees that we grow are easy to reach and you can give these a firm squeeze to check for ripeness. In some countries, when they think the fruit is almost ripe, they pick them off the tree and let these ripen on the table. It usually takes just a few days for the handpicked fruit to ripen away from the branches.
Harvesting the fruit early is actually quite practical, especially for tropical fruits, because fruit bats and birds are usually the first ones to know which are ripe and which are not. In connection to this, if you have a fruit tree and you notice animals paying special attention to any particular fruit, it may be a good idea to get it off the tree and let it ripen in the house or else the animals will beat you to it.
One trick to testing for ripe fruit is to compare its weight to others. Some fruit, pomelos and watermelons, are heavier when they are ripe enough to eat. The heavier they are, the juicier you can expect these fruits to be when you eat them. As they turn over ripe, they tend to dry up inside but still look normal outside.
One issue of checking ripeness in some fruit by handling them is that too much handling can make a fruit mushy or soft. Some people might be too firm in squeezing and a perfectly ripe banana, kiwi or dragon fruit may have a soft spot. When you are at the grocery and trying to see which are ripe, handle them carefully and try not to do much damage. As for those with fruit trees, you have to be sure that it is ripe or almost ripe or you will be left with something hard that will not ripen even if you leave it out on the table for days.