I have always emphasised on eating fresh and seasonal fruits and veggies as they not only taste better but also are the ultimate source of vitamins and minerals that our body needs. However, making sure that you find and bring in the season’s freshest produce can at times be a task.
Studies have shown that the produce starts losing its nutritional value soon after harvest, but because it has to travel long distances before it can reach our closest supermarket, it is most often picked well in advance. So, to ensure highest nutritional value, growing veggies at home and consuming them closer to the harvesting period is the best option. This can be achieved with the help of easy growing kits available in the market. Besides, one can also opt for microgreens, they are not only easy to grow at home in small spaces with minimal supplies but also are a great source of nutritional supplement.
However, if that is not feasible, then one can simply visit their local market and buy produce. With that, the question of how to confirm whether the produce is fresh or not, comes into picture. No, mere intuitions won’t help you through. Finding the freshest and the best produce is an acquired skill, which requires use of all five senses simultaneously. Don’t worry, identifying what’s fresh and what’s not isn’t that difficult after all. Moreover, I’ve got some hacks so you can master the art of buying fresh fruits and veggies for your family.
Seasonal produce, no excuse:
These days, our modern lifestyle of convenience has caused us to take it for granted that we can eat all fresh fruits and veggies throughout the year. We tend to overlook the fact that every produce has a particular season in which they are grown; the soil is naturally prepped to grow only that specific produce in any given season, and that, is the best for our body in that season. On the other hand, offseason produce is often unnaturally processed and preserved by adding preservatives etc. which causes it to lose its nutritional values. Ayurveda has a concept called Ritucharya which breaks down what to eat during each season to maintain health and prevent diseases. There has to be a reason for that, correct? Take for example, mangoes, best produced in summer in India and best consumed in summer too, and no other seasons; or Sarson, found only in winters. Yes, fresh seasonal produce is indeed healthier and tastier. So, first and foremost, acquaint yourself with what is grown in which season in the region that you live in, and when you go to your local market, select produce that’s fresh in season to reap most benefits.
Use your senses, to avoid expenses:
Trust your instincts, as you put your senses to use. With a tap on the Watermelon, you know, if it sounds hollow, it’s perfect. Next, sweet potatoes or apples will feel firm when fresh, tomatoes have a slight springiness, avocados may be squishier, and grapes feel plum. Then, if you try to weigh a custard apple (sitafal) on your palm, if it feels heavy for its size, bingo! Then your nose can tell you whether the mango is fresh. And finally, your eyes will help you determine if the produce is fresh or not, e.g. Wrinkly skin or wilting leaves indicate the produce is stale. Mind you, minor dents and bruises – usually, a result of transportation - are fine, but avoid buying the ones which have too many imperfections or has become unusually mushy or slimy.
Basically, each type of the produce has its own tactical signs to indicate freshness which you need to judge and I’m sure you will soon be a pro at it.
Chef Sanjeev Kapoor is the most celebrated face of Indian cuisine. He is Chef extraordinaire, runs a successful TV Channel FoodFood, hosted Khana Khazana cookery show on television for more than 17 years, author of 150+ best selling cookbooks, restaurateur and winner of several culinary awards. He is living his dream of making Indian cuisine the number one in the world and empowering women through power of cooking to become self sufficient. His recipe portal www.sanjeevkapoor.com is a complete cookery manual with a compendium of more than 10,000 tried & tested recipes, videos, articles, tips & trivia and a wealth of information on the art and craft of cooking in both English and Hindi.