Saturday, December 10, 2011

A Simple Guide in Picking and Buying Fruits

Abe V. Rotor

The best part of papaya (Carica papaya) is the lower half; it is more fleshy, sweeter and deeper in color. In the case of pineapple (Ananas comosus), it is the opposite – the part next to the stem is superior. In bananas (Musa spp), the upper fruits in the bunch are bigger, sweeter and the first to ripen. For sugarcane (Saccharum officinarum) varieties for chewing – get the internodes close to the base; they are sweeter than those toward the top.

· Lansones (Lansium domesticum) – Extra large fruits have big seeds, and are not in any way sweeter than the rest in the bunch. Choose the medium size, quite elongated, and bright yellow in color. Presence of black ants has nothing to do with sweetness.

· Cucumber (Cucumis sativus) – Choose the size for pickling or about. As the fruit matures it loses its firm cartilaginous consistency and the seeds have already matured. Harvest okra, cowpea, patola, batao and string beans when still succulent, otherwise they become fibrous.

· Squash (Cucurbita maxima) – Mature fruit is tough to the fingernail and does not exude sap. Mature and seasoned squash has glutinous (malagkit) consistency. It is best in making duydoy (pasty recipe with sauteed pork and and ampalaya leaves.

. Upo (Lagenaria leucantha) - Newly harvested and young upo is succulent, and it yields easily to the fingernail test. Seeds are removed if the fruit is already mature.

. Patola - It is best when the fruit break readity. In this way you can also check if the seeds have already formed. Ribbed patola is our native variety (Luffa acutangula), while the round (Luffa cylindrica) was introduced.

· Ampalaya (Momordica charantia) – Break the tip of the stem and look for the yellowish to orange coloration at the center. Red means the fruit is over mature.

· Watermelon (Citrulus vulgaris) – Stripes are distinct and widespread. The cut stem should be green. Tap the fruit with the forefinger. If the sound is deep and dull, the fruit is ripe. Better still, ask the seller to make a triangular cut through the fruit. Newly harvested fruits have green peduncle (stem attached to the fruit). This applies to all fruits.

· Caimito (Chrysophylum cainito) - Fruits becomes shiny when it is about to ripen. This is also true in avocado (Persea Americana) and tiessa (Locuma nervosa). You can't force immature fruits to ripen; they'll just shrivel or rot.

· Chico (Achras sapota) – Lightly scrape the skin of the fruit with your fingernail. If underneath is green it is not yet ready for harvesting. This is also a guide in buying unripe chico.

· Sugar apple or atis (Anona squamosa) – Fruit well expanded, canals are distinct, color turns pale green.

· Coconut (mature) (Cocos nucifera) - Shake. A splashy sound indicates a healthy mature nut. Avoid nuts with developing buds. The bigger the bud, the bigger is the enlarged cotyledon and the thinner the meat becomes. The quality and size of the meat deteriorate as the nut germinates.

. Coconut (buko) - Cut the husk and examine the shell. If the shell is hard the nut is no longer suitable for buko salad. Too soft shell means the nut is still mara-uhog; it has no meat yet. Experts can determine the stage of the buko by just tapping the nut.

. Guava (Psidium guajava) - Get those which don't easily yield to pressure. Be guided by its sweet smell when riped. Guapple exudes little of this characteristic odor. Watch out for minute prick holes; the are signs of insect attack, likely the fruit fly (Dacus dorsalis). Get a sample, to check the damage or if there are maggots. Fruit flies also attack macopa, ampalaya, cucumber, mango, and the like. Freckles usually accompany fungus attack although it may be superficial.

. Nangka (Artocarpus integra) - The real test is the characteristic nangka smell, and the fruit yields readily to pressure. When tapped, the sound is dull and deep. Prior to this, at full maturity, the fruit turns from green to yellow, and expands to a point of cracking, the "nails" becoming broad and farther pushed apart. These signs are poorly manifested in inferior fruits.

. Granadilla (Punica granatum) - When ripe the fruit is bright yellow to orange, and it develops wide cracks (that's how it got its other name, granada), exposing pinkish fleshy seeds.

. Juvenile fruits of sampaloc or tamarind (Tamarindus indica), green mango (Mangifera indica), kamias (Averrhoa balimbi) are eaten raw with bagoong (bagoong alamang).

. Sinkamas (Pachyrizus erosus) - Get the newly harvested and young ones. It is easy to detect, by the green stem and freshness of the newly dug yam.

. Pineapple or piƱa (Ananas comosus) - Get the newly harvested ones, and ripened them at home. Look for any sign of damage; damaged fruits deteriorate fast. Eyes must be well set apart, uniform and bright. There are fancy shapes that may serve curiosity and aesthetic taste.

. Oranges, naranhita, dalandan, suha (Citrus spp) . Taste test is the best. Generally, oranges with indented bottom are sweet, although this is not always the case.

Buying fruits is an art. And the list of do's and don't is open ended. There's always something to learn about getting the fruits of your choice, and the best there is available. The best teacher is first hand experience. ~

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