Original Article: The Best Way to Pick a Watermelon on TheKitchn
There’s a definite art to picking the very best watermelons. It involves weighing the watermelon between your hands, turning it over, and giving it a firm thwap! on the underside. A heavy watermelon with a splotch on its belly and a hollow sound means it is brimming with juice and at the peak of its ripeness.
Buying watermelons at a farmers market takes out much of the guesswork. Farmers know their business and will only harvest watermelons for sale when they’re truly ripe. When in doubt, ask the farmer to pick a melon for you. At a farmers market, you can also taste a sample and feel confident that the watermelon you take home will taste the same.
Do you have any other tips for picking the ripest watermelon from the bunch?
Did you know that Hass Avocados do not ripen on the tree? They ripen or “soften” after they have been harvested. Hass Avocados are unique from some of the other varieties of avocados because they can change from a dark-green color to a deep purplish almost black hue when ripe. Although skin color can help in the initial visual selection of Hass Avocados it is not always the best indicator for ripeness. Ripeness is ultimately determined by pressure, color can sometimes be misleading as avocado “softening” can occur at a varying rate, independent of the color.
How to pick the best Avocados
1. Take a look at the chart below. When comparing a group of Hass Avocados, check the outside color of the skin of the avocados for any that are darker in color than the others. These may be riper than Hass Avocados with lighter skin. Check the outer skin of the avocado for any large indentations as this may be a sign that the fruit has been bruised.
2. Place the avocado in the palm of your hand.
3. Gently squeeze without applying your fingertips as this can cause bruising.
4. Picking ripe ready-to-eat Hass Avocados. If the avocado yields to firm gentle pressure you know it’s ripe and ready-to-eat. If the avocado does not yield to gentle pressure it is considered still “firm” and will be ripe in a couple of days. If the avocado feels mushy or very soft to the touch it may be very ripe to overripe.
Practice makes perfect – if it’s your first time selecting avocados, try choosing a couple of avocados that yield to gentle pressure to see how they differ in taste. Or try purchasing an unripe avocado, checking it every day for 2 – 3 days as it softens. Practice will help you learn what to look for when you’re in the store.
How to Store Unripe Avocados
Unripe, firm or green fruit can take four to five days to ripen at room temperature (approximately 65-75 degrees F, avoid direct sunlight). Refrigeration can slow the ripening process, so for best results store unripe fruit at room temperature unless room conditions exceed that range.
Store Cut Unripe Avocados – If you have cut open your Hass Avocado and found it to be unripe, sprinkle the exposed flesh of the avocado with lemon or lime juice, place the two halves back together and cover tightly with clear plastic wrap before placing in the refrigerator. Check the avocado periodically to see if it has softened up enough to eat. Depending on firmness when the fruit was cut and temperature conditions, the ripening process will vary.
How to Store Ripe Avocados
Ripe fruit that has not been cut open can be stored in the refrigerator for two to three days.
Store Cut Ripe Avocados – Sprinkle cut, mashed or sliced fruit with lemon or lime juice or another acidic agent and place in an air-tight container or tightly covered clear plastic wrap. The fruit can be stored in your refrigerator for a day.
Store Guacamole – Guacamole often contains other ingredients that may affect how well and how long the guacamole can be stored. For most guacamole recipes, adding an acidic agent (like those in the right column) can help prevent oxidization when added on top of the guacamole. To store guacamole, place it in an air-tight container and press clear plastic wrap on the surface of the guacamole before covering to help prevent oxidation. Store in the refrigerator.
If refrigerated guacamole or fruit turns brown during storage, discard the top oxidized layer and enjoy the rest.
How to Ripen or Speed up the Ripening Process for Avocados
Avocados do not ripen on the tree, they ripen or “soften” after they have been harvested. To speed up the avocado ripening process we recommend placing unripe avocados in a brown paper bag with an apple or banana for two to three days until they are ripe. We do not recommend any other method of ripening.
Why does this work?
The plant hormone ethylene, which occurs naturally in fruits like apples and bananas, triggers the ripening process. When combined in a brown paper bag, which helps to trap the ethylene gases produced by these fruits, these gases can cause the fruits to ripen faster together.
How to Freeze Avocados
Did you know avocados can be frozen?
Though Fresh Hass Avocados are preferred for their taste and versatility, with the proper preparation, pureed avocados can be frozen and used in guacamole dips, dressings and spread on sandwiches.
Whole, cut, diced or mashed avocados do not have as desirable of a result when frozen. Guacamole can often contain other ingredients that do not freeze well so we do not recommend freezing guacamole.
Follow the instructions below to get the best possible result when freezing pureed Hass Avocados.
1. Wash – Wash the outside of the avocados thoroughly by holding them under running water or in your selected produce wash.
Find more avocado washing and preparation tips.
2. Cut – Cut and peel the avocados.
3. Puree – Place the peeled avocados in a food processor or blender. Add a ratio of one tablespoon of an acidic agent like lemon or lime juice for each avocado you are freezing. Puree until smooth. This will ensure that the lemon or lime juice is evenly distributed to help to prevent the avocados from turning brown. Mashing the avocado rather than pureeing yields a less desirable result because the acidic agent is unevenly mixed in.
4. Package – Place the pureed avocado into an air-tight container. Leave ½ to 1 inch of headspace in the container to allow for expansion. Close your container tightly and label accordingly. Freeze.
Frozen avocado puree must be used within four to five months of freezing.
For many people, purchasing a bunch of bananas is the ultimate act of hope in the face of experience.I’m no different. My thinking generally goes, “If I buy these now, I’m set on breakfast for a week.” Then Thursday comes around, my ‘nanners have turned brown, and suddenly Friday’s looking like a toaster waffle sort of day. Sometimes I consider baking banana bread and pretending I meant to let them get overripe, but mostly I throw them away and feel bad.
There is another way. A better way. A way that requires nothing more than what is already likely to be in your kitchen.
We’re looking specifically at enzymatic browning and the effect of ethylene production here. If you want to dig much deeper, there’s a ton of academic research on bananas available online.
“Relationship between browning and the activities of polyphenol oxidase and phenylalanine ammonia lyase in banana peel during low temperature storage” anyone?
(Postharvest Biology and Technology – PDF link)
When fruits or vegetables are peeled or cut, enzymes contained in the plant cells are released. In the presence of oxygen from the air, the enzyme phenolase catalyses one step in the biochemical conversion of plant phenolic compounds to form brown pigments known as melanins. This reaction, called enzymatic browning, occurs readily at warm temperatures when the pH is between 5.0 and 7.0.
(Australian Institute of Food Science and Technology – PDF link.)
Ethylene promotes maturation and abscission of fruits. This has been known since early last century. Since 1934, it is known that plants themselves can produce ethylene. Many climacteric fruits such as apple, banana and tomato show a strong increase in ethylene levels at the late green or breaker stage. As a consequence of high ethylene chlorophyll is degraded and other pigments are being produced. This results in the typical color of the mature fruit peel. Activity of many maturation-related enzymes increases. Starch, organic acids and in some cases, such as avocado lipids, are mobilized and converted to sugars. Pectins, the main component of the middle lamella are degraded. The fruit softens. These metabolic activities are accompanied by a high respiration rate and consequently by high oxygen consumption. Ethylene levels are especially high in the separating tissues resulting in abscission of the fruit.
(Margret Sauter, University of Hamburg.)
Step 1: Preserve the Bunch: Wrap Stems with Plastic Wrap
To keep a bunch of bananas fresh for longer, wrap the stems in some plastic wrap. Re-cover the bananas with the wrap after removing one.This method prevents ethylene gas, produced naturally in the ripening process, from reaching other parts of the fruit and prematurely ripening it. This technique is hit or miss, as the coverage from the plastic wrap is unlikely to fully prevent contact with the ethylene gas. It’s certainly better than nothing, though.
This explains a few common tricks about using bananas to ripen other fruits like avocados. Or quick-ripening bananas by storing them all in a bag together. Ethylene is actually used in the banana production facilities to induce ripening at just the right time to ensure that you buy a bunch of yellow (or greenish yellow) from your local grocer.
(The next step is my preferred method, and the one that the science appears to back up with the most evidence.)
Step 2: Separate, then Wrap the Stems
Sure, wrapping the whole stem section works, but why keep the bananas together? Since most bananas on a bunch ripen at slightly different rates, your prematurely ripe bananas are going to put off more ethylene gas which will only serve to make ALL the bananas ripen that much faster.Divide and conquer! Separate the ripe fruit from the slightly-less-ripe, wrap their stems in plastic, then enjoy when you’re ready.
This should do a couple of things:
prevent ethylene gas from initiating the ripening process on under-ripe bananas
fully cover the stem to really forestall the off-gassing
make your bananas more convenient to grab and enjoy on the go
And if you’re bothered by the stem wrapper, try opening your bananas from the opposite end like a monkey. You’ll get fewer stringy bits and have a convenient handle to hold onto while you eat. Also, no awkwardness for that final bite.
Step 3: Keep Banana Slices Fresh
To prevent your banana slices from browning, you can use the same trick you’ve seen for apples: acid!Just toss your banana slices in some lemon juice to inhibit enzymatic browning. Full coverage, particularly on the cut sides, will help prevent the slices from turning brown. In addition to lemon juice, vinegar will also work. So would sulfuric acid, for that matter, but you probably don’t want to eat it afterwards.
The acid disrupts the enzymatic breakdown process and prevents your sweet, sweet banana slices from turning into mushy little brown hockey pucks.
A dab’ll do ya, so keep your acid in the teaspoon range. Or you’ll just have sour bananas.