These are the glory days for summer fruits and vegetables.
To pick the best, get up close and personal, suggests Riley Wofford, Martha Stewart Living assistant food editor. She shares her super-high-tech methods — which include spotting, sniffing and squeezing — to find and keep a winner.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Symmetry (whether round or oval), with no flat sides or dents, and a dull finish. A shiny rind may mean a melon is overgrown, which waters down the flavor. When you lift it, it should feel heavy for its size — the weightier, the juicier.
HOW TO STORE IT: Whole, uncut watermelons can sit at room temperature for a week. Cover the exposed flesh of a leftover portion with a silicone bowl cover, or put slices in an airtight container; the cut fruit will stay fresh in the refrigerator for as long as five days.
Cantaloupe and Honeydew
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: A rind with a pale-yellow tint (no dark-green areas), evenness and heft. Lift the stem end to your nose and take a whiff; you should get a hint of flowers. “A good melon reminds me of my grandma’s Ralph Lauren perfume,” says Wofford.
HOW TO STORE IT: Just as you would a watermelon: whole and uncut at room temperature for a week, or sliced, covered airtight and refrigerated for as long as three days.
Plums, Nectarines and Peaches
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Vibrant colors. When you press gently, they should feel firm, but yield a little. And while plums give off only a mild scent, check nectarines and peaches for a heady aroma: “The best ones smell almost artificially fragrant,” says Wofford.
HOW TO STORE IT: Store them at room temperature or, if you’re not planning to eat them within a few days, in the refrigerator. That way, they’ll taste great for as long as five days.
Cherries and Berries
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Plumpness, with no blemishes, dark spots or fuzzy white mold on or between them. Cherries and blueberries aren’t fragrant, but raspberries, blackberries and strawberries should be: “Buy a pint that really smells like strawberries.”
HOW TO STORE IT: Take them out of the containers and pick through, discarding any mushy berries. Line the containers with paper towels, put the fruit back in, and refrigerate for as long as a week. Wash just before serving.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Whether red, yellow or green, the best tomatoes are the most vivid version of their color, with smooth, shiny skin and bright-green tops. Go for surprisingly heavy, medium-firm ones that smell earthy and herbal, like the vine.
HOW TO STORE IT: Chilling zaps their flavor and turns them mealy. Keep them on the counter out of direct sun for as long as five days, ideally in a single layer (for less bruising). “If they’re on the vine, leave them that way, and just pick them off as needed,” says Wofford.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Smooth, flawless skin. Size also matters, per Wofford. Opt for small-to-medium specimens over state-fair champs: “Zucchini and yellow summer squashes can lose flavor when they’re overgrown, and the seeds become hard and overwhelming.”
HOW TO STORE IT: Go ahead and grab an armful. Whole squashes will be fine for as long as two weeks in the crisper drawer. “Pop them in a resealable plastic bag, and they’ll last even longer,” says Wofford.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Fresh, uncut silks streaming out of a bright-green husk. (Cut silks tell you that slimy rot was trimmed off.) The husks should smell subtly sweet and grassy, and cling tightly. Peel them back a tiny bit to check for plump, bright kernels.
HOW TO STORE IT: Toss ears in the refrigerator with the husks on, and they’ll last a week or longer. Wofford cuts off the kernels to save a step when cooking later; blanched or raw, they’re good to go in an airtight container for about five days.