Is This Still Fresh? How to Judge Your Produce

Your refrigerator was full of colorful fruits and vegetables after your last trip to the grocery store, but it’s been a while since then. Some of the produce looks a little… off, but not terrible. How do you really know when something isn’t good to eat anymore? Here’s a handy guide and a few tips for knowing when it’s time for that old apple or bunch of kale to head to the compost bin


Broccoli: The florets should be dark green, not brown, and tightly packed. The stalks should not have thick, dry stems. 

Bell Peppers: If the peppers are soft, wrinkly, and cut or bruised, they are no longer good to eat. They should be brightly-colored and firm. 

Carrots: They should be bright orange and crisp, not soft. Keep the tops on as they tend to stay fresher, longer. 

Cauliflower: The bunch should be eggshell white, compact and firm. Don’t eat florets that have a yellow look or brown spots.

Celery: The stalks should be bright green and firm. Avoid eating stalks with soft spots.

Cucumbers: The vegetables should be firm and a consistent dark green. Don’t eat cucumbers with soft spots or yellowed areas.

Greens: Eat bright or dark green leaves without coarse veins. Toss brown, yellow, and wilted leaves or leaves with brown edges. 

Mushrooms: Don’t eat mushrooms with signs of decay, such as slimy spots.

Onions: They should be dry and firm, and without sprouting shoots, dark spots or soft spots. 

Potatoes: Don’t consume potatoes with sprouts, cracks, decay, wrinkles, or green areas caused by sun exposure. 

Tomatoes: They should not be too firm. Eat tomatoes with bright, shiny skin and without bruises or discolored areas.


Apples: They should be firm and clean. Avoid eating apples with bruises or signs of decay, especially on the inside. 

Avocados: An avocado is ripe if the fruit gives to a small amount of pressure. The inside should be yellow-green and soft, without brown patches. 

Berries: They should have good coloring and a consistent texture. Check containers for mold, and don’t consume fruits that are wrinkled or mushy.

Oranges: Firm with thin, bright skin. Check the ends of the fruit for softness and white mold, as it is no longer safe to consume. 

Pears: Firm, but not too firm. Push gently on the area around the stem.The best time to eat it is when the area around the stem gives to gentle pressure. 

Watermelons: A watermelon is ripe when they are fragrant and slightly soft on the blossom end (opposite of the stem). Thump on the rind, and if it emits a low-pitched sound, it is sweet and juicy. 

A few extra tips
  • Do you tend to buy the same fruits and veggies? Mix it up and try a new vegetable or fruit every other trip to the store. 
  • Bigger isn’t always better. Smaller fruits tend to be sweeter!
  • Looking for a juicy citrus fruit? The shallower the dimples are on the skin, the juicier the fruit! 
  • The fruit or veggie doesn’t have to be the prettiest in the bunch. Odd-shaped produce tastes the same (and sometimes better) as perfect produce! Just make sure it doesn’t have signs of decay, wrinkles, or bruising before you put it in your basket. 

Now, go check your produce, and decide what new fruit or veggie you want to try next! Remember to thoroughly wash and dry your produce as soon as you bring it home for safe storage.

Information sourced from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Complete Food & Nutrition Guide.

One comment on “Is This Still Fresh? How to Judge Your Produce

  1. Dimitrina Vasileva on

    If the radishes are sold with the tops, you can tell how fresh they are by the health of the greens. Yellow or wilted leaves are a sign that the radish has been on the shelf for a while; however, always check the actual root. If it is still firm, then it is still fresh.


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