Maggie L. Moor-Orth Delaware Cooperative Extension, DSU
During the month of May and early June, many of the Farmers Markets throughout the state of Delaware will be opening, and farmers will be bringing their fresh produce for many of us to purchase. How lucky we are, because meeting and getting to know our farmers means we know our food. Buying local ensures we have really fresh food and a great way to keep our small farmers in business.
It is important to remember that vegetables are usually at their best quality and price at the peak of their season. Purchasing produce when in season also ensures its freshness.
Always check the characteristic signs of freshness: crispness, uniform color, firmness, blemish free and dryness.
The difference in these qualities means the difference in price and quality grades furnished by the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture). Equally important to remember is that vegetables grow in a great variety and provide vitamins and minerals.
Because fresh vegetables have individual characteristics and values, there are no set rules for buying them. Personal experience is probably the best teacher.
However, the following list is designed as a handy reference when purchasing certain vegetables:
Beans (Snap): Look for fresh, bright appearance with good color. Purchase young, tender beans with pods that are firm and crisp. Thick, tough fibrous pods indicate over-maturity.
Beets: Should be firm with a deep red color, and have a round taproot. In most cases beets are sold in a bunch with tops attached. The condition of the tops is a good judge of their freshness. Avoid wilted and flabby beets.
Broccoli: Look for a compact cluster of flowers that is firm, green and sometimes has a purplish cast. Avoid yellow-opened buds or wilted clusters.
Carrots: Should be well-colored, firm, well-formed and smooth. The tops, if attached, should be fresh and have a good green color.
Corn: Pick ears that are well covered with plump, but not too mature kernels. Husks should be green and the silk-ends should be free of decay or worm damage.
Cucumbers: Look for a completely firm, well-developed good green-colored fruit. Avoid overgrown, large-in-diameter, withered and dull green-colored cucumbers.
Peppers: Look for peppers with a deep characteristic color (peppers come in a variety of colors like: purple, green, yellow,