Guide to Summer Fruits - Guide to Summer Fruits. Picking and storing berries, cherries, melon, grapes and soft fruit - Produce Philosophy with Mike
Produce Philosophy
with Coborn’s Produce
Merchandiser Mike P.

Summer is almost here. This time of year is great as we get a new variety of fruits that become available. While items like berries, grapes, melons, are year round items, they seem to taste much better to me in the warm weather environment. That hasn’t happened much this spring. Grapes are getting closer to being domestic again. Melons will start the same trek to becoming available domestically. Berry harvest is starting in some of the best growing regions of California. Some other summer favorites of mine, like cherries, and soft fruit items, such as peaches, plums, nectarines, and my new favorite, pluots, are all now becoming available. - Picking and Preparing Summer Fruits - BerriesBerries

Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries start to really peak in price, as well as availability this time of year.  Good pricing and availability should stay pretty much right through the summer unless they run into big weather problems due to high temperatures, or excessive rain for extended periods. During this time, I like to look for berries on sale. Often there will be one, two or more on sale each week. We like to eat them as a snack, in a fruit salad, or my favorite, cut up berries over vanilla yogurt with granola sprinkled over the top. YUM!! If this is too much work, you can buy this snack all done up for you in the produce department, ready for your lunch, or snack, which is a real treat.

Organic Berries

For the organic customer, now is also a great time to take advantage of buying berries as price, and availability are better as well. Berries are items on the Dirty Dozen list. For those of you wondering what this is, it has to do with a list of products that pesticides have direct contact with, without pealing a layer off of. Organic customers believe that there might be potential harm from the chemicals sprayed directly on the product, so berries are one of items organic customers look for.

Picking Berries

Look for berries that look fresh, not wet on bottom of container, or shriveled with dehydration problems, smashed, or have bruising.

Storing Berries

Store berries in refrigerator. Storing berries up to a week is ok, but sooner use will give you a better eating experience.  Do not rinse until day of use to avoid product break down. Rinse and pat dry the berries on a paper towel. - Picking and Preparing Summer Fruits - CherriesCherries

Cherries are a big item for our produce departments. They generate enough sales to be a Top 10 selling produce item. That is big considering they are really only available for a couple of months out of the year. Cherries will start in stores mid-May through August with July being peak month for price and quality. Cherries will start shipping out of California, then Washington around the first of July. The Bing is the most popular variety which is a red cherry. Gaining in popularity is the Rainier cherry which is yellow with a red blush to it. This cherry is a little sweeter with less acidity.

Cherry Picking

Look for cherries that are plump, not dehydrated, extra dark, and have dried stems. Bags should not be sticky.

Storing Cherries

When home, refrigerate for maximum shelf life. - Picking and Preparing Summer Fruits - MelonsMelons

Watermelon – Watermelon season is kicking into high gear, so look for some great promotions. Buying a whole melon is really a value paying less than 50 cents a pound. There are not a lot of kinds of fruit that you can buy for that price. When on sale, that price can be much cheaper yet. People love the seedless variety but often I hear people say there not sweet enough.

Cantaloupe – Another popular melon is cantaloupe. Our company has been using a cantaloupe called magnificent melon, which is sweeter, and tastier than some of the other brands of cantaloupe out there. This melon displays a nice gold outside shell, with a very orange interior color and is very sweet.

Honeydew – Honeydew is the next most popular melon. There are many more varieties that will become available throughout the summer as well. My favorite is to mix all three melons into a fruit salad, including berries on the top.

Picking Melon

Whole Watermelon – look for melons with yellow spots where it had laid on the ground {indicates ripeness] Knock on it. It should have a ping sound, not a thud. No decay spots, and no spongy feeling.

Cantaloupe – plump, heavy for size, no breakdowns or decay spots. Some softening is ok, and gold exterior shell color is also a good indicator.

Honeydew – ripe melon will give off aroma, and outside texture will look dull, not shiny. Another way to check is if there is some give on the butt end, opposite the stem side.

Storing and preparing Melon

These are ok to leave un-refridgerated. Once product is cut, it must stay refrigerated. I like to cut melon in halves, then quarters. Take a knife and make multiple criss-cross cuts to size chunks you are looking for cutting down to bottom of rind. Then run knife just along rind, and fruit layer. Watermelon will require a couple cuts diagonally to get to bottom layer. Melon is pretty much all water, so the closer to the day you are ready to eat without cutting will give you a much better tasting product. - Picking and Preparing Summer Fruits - GrapesGrapes

When it gets hot in the summer, my favorite thing to do with grapes is put a bag or two in the freezer. Yes freezer! They eat just like Popsicles. Buy when the price is right, another great treat. Kids love them also, just make sure you didn’t buy the ones with seeds, not a welcomed crunch. Red grapes have become America’s favorite. Usually having more sweetness than the green, or black ones. Everyone has there favorite. Throughout the summer each color of grape has many different varieties, so just cause you didn’t like a green one a couple weeks ago, you might love them this week. My favorite grapes to eat are still green. Although the best sellers are red.

Picking Grapes

Look for grapes that are plump for their size, with no decay or wet berries in bag. Also, does the vine look fresh, or dried out and brittle, which is an indicator of age.

Storing Grapes

Grapes should be stored in refrigerator and not washed or rinsed until ready to use. Washing product too early before using will start breakdown and decay, causing rusting, and splitting near the stem end. - Picking and Preparing Summer Fruits - Soft FruitsSummer soft fruits

The smell of peaches, plums and nectarines in the produce department lets me know summer is here. Biting into a peach, hearing that succulent noise, and juice dripping down my chin. Yeah, that’s the good stuff! There are so many varieties, you really want to keep asking or sampling different items. There are Peacherines which are a peach/nectarines cross. There are white peaches, and nectarines, which have less acidity and are much sweeter that the yellows. Peaches and nectarines will also have different varieties almost weekly, so if one week you try one and really like it, you might want to head back to get more. As as we get into July, peaches will start the cling free varieties where they peel away from the pit. A must for people that use for canning. Another favorite of mine are pluots. Pluots are a cross between apricots, and plums. Different pluots, are basically different varieties of plums crossed with apricots. My favorite is the Dapple Dandy pluot. Some like them soft before they eat, I prefer them hard. They all come in very sweet. Pluot availability and price seem to be better late July and August, so give them a try.

Picking Soft Fruits

Aroma indicates ripeness, so that is always something to smell for. Gentle to the touch also indicates ripeness. Many times fruits will be on the hard side.

Storing Soft Fruits

When at home leave them on the counter unless fruit is very ripe. Refrigeration of unripe fruit will stop the ripening process. Best way to store for ripening is in a paper bag. Put a banana in a bag, bananas give off a gas to help ripen. Plastic bags are a no, no, as these bags will not allow the product to breathe, and fruit will spoil.

Hopefully you will enjoy a few of my favorite summer fruits. Using some of the tips in picking out, storing, and preparing of these fruits during the peak season, will help you enjoy them as much as I do. Start enjoying now, as soon they will be gone.

Produce Merchandiser

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