Screen Shot 2024-07-06 at 5.03.25 PM

Ask Chef Walter: How to buy Vegetables + Fruit – Walter Potenza

by Executive Chef Walter Potenza, contributing writer

Dear Friends:

Summer is here, and selecting summer vegetables and fruits is not just a task but an opportunity to bring the best flavors of the season to your table. When you are at your favorite store and rural farm stand, consider factors such as the condition, ripeness, and intended use of the produce.

Here are some detailed suggestions and common mistakes to avoid, ensuring you pick the most vibrant and delicious items:

Summer Vegetables


Suggestions: Opt for firm tomatoes that yield slightly to gentle pressure, display a vibrant color, and emit a fragrant aroma.

Mistakes to Avoid: Avoid selecting tomatoes with blemishes, cracks, or overly soft spots, which may indicate overripeness or damage. These signs can lead to a less enjoyable eating experience and potential food waste.


Suggestions: Choose firm, dark green cucumbers without blemishes or soft areas.

Mistakes to Avoid: Avoid cucumbers that appear yellowish or have shriveled ends, as these signs suggest they are past their prime.

Bell Peppers:

Suggestions: Select peppers that are firm, glossy, and exhibit a deep, rich color. The skin should be smooth and free of wrinkles.

Mistakes to Avoid: Avoid peppers that appear dull in color, have soft spots or display wrinkled skin.

Zucchini and Summer Squash:

Suggestions: Look for squash that feels heavy for its size, has a firm texture, and features smooth, unblemished skin.

Mistakes to Avoid: Avoid squash with soft spots, cuts, or excessive size, as they may be challenging and contain large seeds.


Suggestions: Choose ears with bright green husks, moist silk, and plump, well-filled kernels.

Mistakes to Avoid: Avoid corn with dry or brown husks, silk, or irregularly dented kernels.

Summer Fruits – Berries (Strawberries, Blueberries, Raspberries, etc.):

Suggestions: Opt for berries that are plump, bright in color, and emit a sweet fragrance.

Mistakes to Avoid: Avoid berries that are mushy, moldy, or show signs of leakage or desiccation.


Suggestions: Look for a watermelon with a uniform shape, a creamy yellow spot where it rests on the ground and emits a deep, hollow sound when tapped.

Mistakes to Avoid: Avoid selecting watermelons with soft spots, dents, or overly shiny surfaces, which may indicate overripeness or poor quality.

Peaches, Nectarines, and Plums:

Suggestions: Select fruits slightly yielding to the touch and emit a sweet fragrance. The skin should be smooth and unblemished.

Mistakes to Avoid: Avoid hard fruits with green undertones or excessive softness and bruising.


Suggestions: Choose firm, glossy cherries that feature bright green stems.

Mistakes to Avoid: Avoid cherries that are soft, shriveled, or have brown spots.


Suggestions: Look for grapes that are firm, plump, and firmly attached to the stems, displaying a uniform color.

Mistakes to Avoid: Refrain from selecting grapes that are soft, wrinkled, or have brown spots.

General Tips and Mistakes You Should Avoid

Buying in Bulk: While it may be financially tempting to purchase large quantities when produce is in season and affordable, it’s essential to be realistic about your consumption to prevent spoilage.

Not Checking Ripeness: Different fruits and vegetables have varying indicators of ripeness, and learning these signs is crucial to selecting the best produce.

Don’t just buy what’s available; embrace the seasonality of summer produce. It’s not just about the taste; it’s about supporting local farmers and enjoying the freshest options. Stick to what’s in season locally for the best quality and a stronger connection to your community.

Storing Incorrectly: Some produce should be refrigerated, while others fare better at room temperature. For instance, storing tomatoes in the refrigerator can cause them to lose flavor.

Overlooking Local Options: Farmers’ markets often offer the freshest and most flavorful produce, as it’s typically harvested at peak ripeness.

By following these detailed suggestions and avoiding common mistakes, you’re not just picking produce but making informed choices that guarantee the highest quality of summer produce on your plate. Feel the satisfaction of knowing you’ve chosen the best!

Sicily 2024 September 30 – October 7, 2024

Flavors + Knowledge Get the latest on food, wine, travel, cooking and culture

FK Proprietary Header Image

Posted in

Leave a Comment