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How the Pickiest Pick Produce

How the Pickiest Pick Produce
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Of course, today’s supermarkets have
already narrowed your fresh fruit and
vegetable choices for you—and you don’t
have to worry about such nuisances as
weevils or borers in the produce on most
grocery shelves. Just about anything you
buy will be uniform and good quality.
but there are ways to choose the tastiest
of what’s available, whether from your
garden, a farmers’ market, or the grocer’s
shelves. Here are words of wisdom from
Amelia Simmons, author of American
Cookery
(1798), that still hold true in this
day of hybrid technology and flashfrozen
products.

Use the ruler for carrots.
When you
want big chunks of carrot for stew or
need grated carrot for cakes or muffins,
you can’t rely on those convenient
prepeeled baby carrots; you need bigger
roots. If you rarely buy full-size carrots,
remember that they’re not all created equal. Be sure to choose carrots that are
“middling siz’d, that is, a foot long and
two inches thick at the top end.” Their
flavor and sweetness is “better than overgrown
ones,” but they’re large enough to
work with easily.

See red for slaw.
If you’ve got a food processor and want to try your hand at
home-shredding cabbage for slaw, try red
Savoy cabbage. The reddest of the small,
tight heads are best for slaw, claims
Amelia Simmons. But don’t try to cook
any leftover cabbage, she warns. “It will
not boil well, comes out black or blue,
and tinges other things with which it is
boiled.”

Pick the pudgy parsley.
Whether you’re making a selection from your own herb
garden or the produce section, look for
“the thickest and branchiest” parsley for
the fullest flavor. “The best-tasting parsley
is always growing vigorously and getting
enough water, so it won’t be straggly
or yellow,” says Rose Marie Nichols
McGee, co-owner of Nichols Garden
Nursery, in Albany, Oregon. “And if
you’re picking parsley from your garden
or a window box, you should pick from
the center, but not just because it’s thickest
there.”Picking parsley from the center
on a regular basis prevents the plant from
bolting (producing a seedstalk). Plants
that bolt may have an off flavor, Rose
Marie explains.

My watermelon is like a red, red rose.
In American Cookery (1798), Amelia Simmons
advises readers to choose redcored
watermelons, since they are “highest
flavored.”And this is easy to do these
days, since grocery stores and farmers’
markets often sell cut halves and slices of
watermelon—you don’t have to wait to
get home and cut your melon open to see
what you’ve got. As for selecting the best
uncut melon, Leslie Coleman, director of
communications for the National Watermelon
Promotion Board, suggests that
there is a more reliable method than the
proverbial thump. “Select a firm, symmetrical
watermelon that is free of
bruises, cuts, and dents. Turn the melon
over. If the underside is yellow and the
rind has an overall healthy sheen, the
watermelon is probably ripe. Select melons
that are heavy for their size.”

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