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Underipe fruit/veggie in grocery stores

So this isn't a rant exactly, though I am quite frustrated.

How do you all deal with going to the grocery store to find that everything in the produce section is underripe/not ready for consumption? Tomatoes, avocados, peaches? I am going absolutely nuts.

Yesterday I bought peaches - today I hoped that they might be OK to eat and I tried to take a bite out of one... hard as a rock. I don't know how many days it will take them to ripen... and by the time they do I might have forgotten about them and they will over ripen and need to be thrown out.

Seriously, what do you all do? Say you want to make a specific dish - when do you shop? After all some days the foods are ready to eat almost overripe and other days you will buy that peach and it won't be ready for a week!

Suggestions please! And yes, I already understand that flexibility is key but please give me some credit!

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  1. I refuse to buy produce in the grocery stores anymore for that very reason. I do the farmers markets when available and try and freeze as much as I can to eat over the winter months. Most of what we can find at the store we can find fresh at an orchard, farmers market, etc. It is def worth the trip and much more affordable too. Nothing beats fresh produce!

    1. I suppose that I should be more specific.... there are times that going to a farmers market really cannot happen. How can you combat the unripe food items in the grocery store?

      1. It is frustrating but it is sort of a catch-22. Take peaces and avocadoes, both soft. If the suppliers ship them perfectly ripe, they invariably get all bruised up in transit. Also allows a smaller window of time for the retailer to sell the produce. OTOH, green fruit is undesirable to customers who want to use it TONIGHT.

        One approach is to go to your favorite stores and buy what is good and ripe today for immediate consumption and a few things that need a few days for later in the week. If you forget you have peaches ripening on the counter until it is too late, then I guess you just need to pay more attention to your peaches! Most things shouldn't take much more than 3 days at warmish room temp to ripen.

        1. Considering the amount of travel time (and miles) that most produce goes through, there's really no way to guarantee the ripeness once something gets to the store. But I get that you know that already. (BTW I'm with Smileelisa on this one, as much as possible.)
          So, I'd recommend something I've heard many a TV chef suggest. Go to the market, see what's ripe/cheap/in season/yummy NOW, and then plan your menu.

          1 Reply
          1. re: bakinggirl

            Unfortunately that's not always possible, if you're planning a special dinner party or something. At least for me, if I'm hosting a big event, I start cooking a couple of days ahead and I need to know my menu is going to go together.

            I tend to choose recipes that are a little bit flexible -- fruit based desserts where I can pick whatever fruit is ripe, for example. Or where I'll be cooking the fruit so it doesn't matter quite so much.

            Otherwise, if I need fruit I know I can eat today, ethnic grocers tend to carry produce that's a little more of the moment than the major supermarket chains.

          2. With avocados, I find that they are almost always better if you buy them green and ripen them yourself in any event. Unless you have a very consciencious produce person at your local market, the "ripe" avocados are often ones that have been refrigerated to hold their condition, which ruins their flavor in my opinion.

            As for other fruits, I would suggest you be more flexible (yes, I know you already said you try to be, but you may save yourself some frustration if you try to go more with the flow on a given day ;-) on what you want to eat immediately. If the peaches aren't ripe, maybe the melon is. Or go with a fruit like grapes or bananas, which typically are more forgiving when it comes to ripeness. With tomatoes, I rarely if ever buy tomatoes other than cherry or plum varieties in the grocery store, as it has been years since I had a good full-sized grocery store tomato. I've rarely had a problem finding ready-to-eat cherry tomatoes in the market.

            Otherwise, you are just going to have to plan ahead. I bought some green avocados this past weekend, knowing I was going to have a taco party next weekend and will want them for guacamole. Rather than leave it up to last minute chance, I bought them ahead (since I prefer to ripen them myself anyhow).

            You also might try a different market. I find that grocery stores can vary widely in how their produce managers handle the produce. Whole Foods almost always has ripe fruit on hand, including avocados. Of course, that is part of the reason it is more expensive. If you have a produce manager that takes care to see that there is ripe fruit on hand, you are going to have higher waste, thus higher prices.

            1. I guess I should have been specific about the reason I ranted a bit. This morning I had to stop at a grocery store that I don't care for much this morning before work. I shop and Whole foods most often because at least there I have luck. Yesterday and then again today I kid you not there wasn't a single ripe thing that wasn't a berry or an apple. Nothing that is in season such as peaches, nectarines, plums etc. It was all hard as a rock. All the bananas were to green to eat - I don't know about you but crunchy green bananas do make me sick. I really looked around too to find something.

              That was the reason for my post today. I already understand how far the things travel in trucks to reach the stores. I understand the process entirely hense my own love of farmers markets etc. This was crazy though! As I walked by the stands all the tomatoes were pink as well. And it happens all the time.

              The thing that is difficult though is try as you like you cannot predict when soemthing is going to be ready on your counter. It just is, when it is. That's why I want to understand how everyone else seems to do it.

              And for the record I am very flexible and I substitute things all the time or change menus entirely. Sometimes though it gets a little difficult.

              I also have a husband that is gone about 3/4 year for business - it is rather difficult on me when i grab a (small) pile of things to ripen at home and then they don't ripen before he leaves again, leaving me to A. have to scramble around for other things to eat and B. for me to have to figure out ways to eat food amounts for two on one stomach.

              And say you knwo you want guacamole for superbowl - how in the orld can you figure out when to buy the avacados? This is just an example.

              5 Replies
              1. re: Allice98

                I sympathize, I do :-)

                For a rule of thumb on avocados, if it's a Haas avocado, and it is all green and rock hard, it will ripen in 5-7 days, closer to 7. If it's green with a tinge of black, but still quite hard, it will ripen in 3-5 days, closer to 4 or 5. If it's mostly black, but still on the firmer side, it will ripen in 2-3 days. If its all black and just a little firm, you can usually count on 1-2 days. You can hasten avocado ripening by storing them in a brown bag with an apple or a banana (I just keep mine on the counter next to the bananas to help with ripening). If I needed them for the superbowl, I'd by them 1 week ahead, green and hard.

                I also tend to buy in small quantities, because I live alone and won't eat a full bunch of bananas. Do not hesitate to buy one or two and break them off the bunch.

                Rock hard peaches from the supermarket rarely ripen well, if they ripen at all. I just don't bother to buy them after many disappointments with peaches that went mealy before they ever ripened or developed flavor. Same with nectarines and to a lesser extent, plums. With peaches, look for the variety called saturn or donut peaches, as those seem to be semi-reliable in terms of flavor and ripening, although even those are less tasty than they were 5 or so years ago when they were a new variety.

                For tomatoes, as I noted above, I only buy cherry or grape tomatoes, and occasionally plum tomatoes depending on the time of year, from the supermarket. I don't bother with full-sized tomatoes from the supermarket, because I haven't had a good one in many many many years, with exception to high-end markets which carry heirloom varieties in the summertime.

                So, that's my shopping strategy! Hope it helps!

                1. re: DanaB

                  I find nectarines are more reliable than peaches. They have more flavour even when relatively hard and they seem to ripen better. Not always as delicious as they SHOULD be but more likely to be edible than peaches.
                  My personal pet peeve is "tree ripened" fruit that is rock hard! Who, exactly, do they think they are fooling?
                  Oh, and the fact that berries (in particular raspberries) are so often overripe: crushed and moldy. Driscolls even changed the colour of the liner on the bottom of the package to pink so that it's harder to tell if they are crushed on the bottom. But I'm not fooled, oh no ;)
                  I've just about given up on the big grocery stores for fruit, I am lucky enough to have some local produce stores with great prices, lots of local stuff in season, and seemingly faster turnover (no warehousing I suppose).

                  1. re: julesrules

                    am i just weird? i like my nectarines, plums, basicaly all stone fruit to be hard when i eat them. I want them to crunch... and i hate when they're juicy and oversweet.

                    1. re: kubasd

                      I am just the opposite- I want them juicy and sweet, the kind where you almost have to either wear a bib, or eat them over the sink!

                2. re: Allice98

                  I feel the same way. There was a thread about prepackaged guacamole and what a sham it was. But, if you're traveling to a vacation house for a weekend and want guacamole with your chips, I think it's a good option, especially some of the ones that are only ingredients you'd use. Yeah, I could go w/out but chips and salsa and guacamole sometimes just hit the spot after a day of skiing for me.

                  And, ideally we could all plan our lives a week in advance and sometimes that doesn't happen. If you find good fresh fish and want a salsa and avocado, you really can't. Sorry no solutions but I commiserate with you.

                3. I feel your pain! Nothing worse than wanting a delicious peach, and having it either maely or rock hard. As a matter of fact, I have stopped buying peaches, unless they are from a local farm. I live in the NE, and every year we vacation in NC- the praches there are delicious- so the day before we come home, I buy a few dozen and get my peach fix for the year. As far as other produce, i found a place not too far from my house where they have local produce, as well as reliable produce from other parts. That has become my go place for my fruites and vegatables. I make a trip about every other week, and am always happy with the produce. I try to tie in the trip to the Farm Stan with stops at Trader Joes. It is an additional shopping trip, but worth it for me. I found that it really only takes about an hour or so of my Saturday morning.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: macca

                    I live in CT and didn't realize, until last year, how great the peaches are here! We have a couple farmstands in NE CT that carry peaches by the flat, if you're interested in driving that far...

                    1. re: bakinggirl

                      Now is a bad time for a flat - I am in the middle of kitchen redo so I can't even get things to preserve right now. that was the main reason for my attempting to buy fruit in the grocery store. That way i could get a few pieces. Seeems like farmerts markets only let you buy boxes, baskets etc of things, not by the piece for most items like fruit.

                      1. re: Allice98

                        That varies from market to market. My local FM does some boxes and some "by the pound". That said, I perfectly understand your distress! A couple of weeks ago I wanted to end my staycation by baking a lovely peach tart. Hadn't baked one in several years, so I was looking forward to making (and eating) it! But the peaches at the farmer's market were MIA--none to be found (I probably got there too late). So I went to the supermarket--fortunately they were "starting" to get soft and after a day in a paper bag they were usable (and the taste was okay--not great, but not gawdawful either). But I was figuratively holding my breath and crossing my fingers on the way there!

                      2. re: bakinggirl

                        Thanks- you know, it just may be worth the drive! I absolutely love peaches, and have been spoiled by the one we get in NC.We go in early July, so we hit the peach season, and I am able to come home with a fe dozen, but later in the summer I get the craving, and a ride to CT may just be the thing!

                    2. I think many people only shop about once a week, so differing levels of ripeness throughout the store aren't necessarily a huge bother. I don't think the average supermarket is designed with the idea that people are going to be shopping daily. They'd probably end up with a lot of waste if they only put out fruit that is good today and tomorrow. I think if you go in with the shopping for the week mentality, you'll pick out a few things that are good now and a few that are going to be ready later in the week.

                      1. Allice98, have you tried talking to the green grocer manager personally while shopping? I tried this tactic recently at the grocery store. He went in the back and hand picked the perfect fruit I needed for a party the following morning. The fruit was perfect. I can't say this personal attention can be offered w/every trip but if you want to have the ideal produce for a time-constraint, ask for personal service.

                        btw-it was ordering thru Peapod that I learned about this technique. All of the produce I ordered was outstanding thru this delivery service. I just gave it a try at store level.

                        Good luck!

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: HillJ

                          That's a nice story, HillJ.
                          This would never happen in my local grocery stores. I am consistently told "everything we have is out" - I have to shop at 2 or 3 different places to get edible fruit and veg- it's terrible.

                          Sam's club has a 200% guarantee on their produce- I've not taken them up on it but I have been so tempted... it's usually the bananas.

                          1. re: Boccone Dolce

                            Unless you freeze bananas (which I always have to do), you can never make banana bread impulsively!

                            1. re: Boccone Dolce

                              Boccone D, I know what you mean. Not every grocery store/market would be so accommodating by me either. Nothing like buying a melon and once home discover it's tasteless. Or, tell me why I can purchase a melon for .89 at Aldi's ripe to perfection but would wind up spending nearly 3.00 for an under ripe melon at Stop & Shop? Frustrating!

                              I wonder if Costco offers the same guarantee at Sam's?

                          2. As stated in most of the replies, just have to resign to shopping seasonally at farmers market for certain fruits and vegetables. Besides our distribution system and that most markets treating produce as a commodity, in our self-service era, there is a tendency for us as shoppers to pick through and squeeze every fruit in the bind. Ripe fruits cannot be handled this way. In a short time, all the fruits will have brown bruises all over. In farmer's market, they can pick the fruits much more ripe because handling is kept ot a minimal. In most parts of Europe, the seller picks the produce for the buyer; no buyer handling.

                            1. I feel your pain. Due to our work schedules, we do our grocery shopping after 8pm. There is nowhere to go but the standard grocery stores at that hour. And our farmer's market is only active Saturday morning - when I work. Luckily a coworker brings me extra tomatoes from her garden. Otherwise we have unripe grocery store fruit upon which we wait. If something gets overripe I freeze it and use it for smoothies throughout the year.

                              1. Here in L.A., Mexican markets and Asian markets, which in my experience at least don't seem to have that endemic not-ripe-but-not-obviously-from-appearance-not-ripe issue. I kind of prefer that to farmer's markets, but if I happen to be by one at a convenient time, there is good too.