How To Pick The Best Vegetables

Last Updated on May 22, 2019

Everyone knows that veggies are good for you. But how do you know how to pick the best vegetables? No one wants to go into their fridge the day after shopping and find floppy carrots or wilted greens!

The best way to make sure your vegetables last between one shopping trip and the next is to pick the freshest ones you can. And luckily, there are ways to ensure you do this! So before you head out for your next grocery shopping trip, read through these tips on How to Pick the Best Vegetables!

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How to Pick the Best Vegetables

When it comes to taste, vegetables will be at their best when they’re in season. Because certain foods or brand named foods are grown internationally, even if something is out of season you’ll still be able to buy it, and it might taste alright.

But you run the lowest risk of veggies having no taste or tasting unusually sour/bitter if you buy them during their prime season. So I’ve included the best seasons for the veggies in the chart below (though some don’t have a best season and actually tend to taste the same year round).

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All vegetables have very clear visual signs that can give away if they’re still good, already bad, or on their way to rotting. Many also have a change in texture or may lose their structure and become limp.

So if you’re trying to pick the best vegetables, make sure to not just look at them, but feel all around them, too. Especially with vegetables like onions, where the outer layer can easily hide a bad spot underneath.

Also check for mold (which may show up as green, brown, or white fuzzy spots or white “hairs”), bruises, and scratches. While you can always cut a bad spot off, you’ll be losing part of the veggie, and the overall longevity of the vegetable is likely reduced as the damaged area may spread.

But while you sift through your grocery store’s veggies and try to pick the best vegetables, remember that an oddly shaped veggie isn’t a bad one. It’s been discovered that because people are afraid of oddly shaped vegetables being in some way “bad” grocery stores tend to toss them out.

This is tons of perfectly fine food that could be sold as normal, or put to use feeding the hungry! So if you see any weirdly shaped veggies (carrots that have merged, oddly shaped potatoes, etc.), go ahead and buy them if they’re fine according to the chart below. And if you’re interested in learning more about reducing food waste, Google “ugly vegetables.”

There are places that deliver misshapen veggies and there are organizations that you can help in the quest to make ugly vegetables more mainstream.

(PS- do not mind that the plate says Merry Christmas. LOL It wasn’t Christmas 🙂 )

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So you’ll be able to refer to this chart when you’re in the grocery store, I’ve included a printable at the bottom of this post. Here are my tips on how to pick the best vegetables!

Vegetable In Season Good if… Bad if…
Artichoke April and May Green with compact scales. Scales spreading or discolored.
Asparagus Spring Round, compact tips with close scales. Mainly green. Spread tips, discoloration.
Beetroot Firm, round, bright in color. Tops seem whole and fresh. Soft, discolored, or scales/dryness near the tops.
Broccoli Firm, green, with compact florets. Soft, areas of yellow color, wilted or spread florets.
Brussels sprouts October – December Firm, green, well-fitting leaves. Soft, dry-looking near the top, wilted leaves.
Cabbage Firm, heavy, light or deep green. Wilted leaves, worm-eaten leaves, areas of yellow color.
Carrots Firm, bright orange, relatively smooth skin. If present, tops should be green. Soft/floppy, brown areas, too much green at the top of the root.
Cauliflower September – January White, compact florets, green leaves. Spread florets, many mold spots (usually brown).
Celery Firm, green, shiny stalks. If leaves are present, they should be green and fresh looking. Floppy stalks, yellowing leaves, brown/black discoloration.
Corn Summer Green husks. Should feel firm, but not rock hard. Discolored husks, tiny kernels, dry kernels, discolored kernels.
Cucumber Summer Green, firm. Soft spots, yellow areas, shrunken/shriveled looking skin.
Eggplant Late summer Firm, deep purple, smooth skin. Soft spots, discoloration, shriveled skin.
Greens (Kale, Spinach, etc.) Vibrant color, firm-ish leaves. Firm stalks. No yellow, or red unless part of the green’s variety (like red chard). Soft, wilted leaves, soft stalks. Discoloration. Brown dead areas or mold.
Lettuce Vibrant color, fresh leaves (romaine and iceberg lettuce should have firm feeling leaves). Wilted leaves, discoloration. If iceberg is very firm, it’s usually not good.
Onions Firm (feel around to feel out underlying soft spots). A little discoloration on the outer layers is alright, but the layers should be dry. Soft spots, wet spots, green spots.
Parsnips Late winter Firm, relatively smooth, not too wide. Overly large, soft, floppy.
Peppers Late summer Vibrant color, firm, shiny. Soft spots, bruises, cuts, shriveled skin.
Potatoes Smooth, firm. Ideally no sprouting at all. Green spots, shriveled skin, sprouts (a little sprouting from the “eyes” of the potatoes is okay, though not ideal).
Radishes Summer No more than 1 inch in diameter, and no smaller than 3/4 inch. Round, firm, bright color. Overly large or soft. Yellow tops.
Squash (summer squash- zucchini, pattypan, etc.) Firm, shiny, smooth skin. Hard or soft, shriveled or pitted skin.
Squash (winter squash- butternut, acorn, etc.) Fall – Winter Hard, with a thick skin. Heavy. Some discoloration is okay. Soft rind, excessive discoloration, cuts, mold spots.
Sweet potatoes Firm, relatively smooth skin. Soft spots, cuts, worm holes, excessive discoloration.
Tomatoes Smooth, no blemishes. Ripe tomatoes should be deep red and soft. Not-yet ripe tomatoes should be a lighter red and firmer. Too soft, bruised, green or yellow spots, mold, dark brown cracks near the stem.
Turnips Not too large, firm, round. If present the leaves/leaf stems should be green. Too large, too dry-looking. Damage, discoloration, soft spots.

[Click Below to Print Off your Printable Chart!]

Do you have any other things you look for when trying to pick the best vegetables?

Laura Awe Filled Homemaker

Halfway Homesteaders