You’re reading my blog right now probably because we share a common interest—we both love Filipino food. But our passion for the local cuisine should not start in the kitchen; it begins at the market. Knowing how to check the freshness of the foods and ingredients that you buy is just as important as cooking and food preparation.
Whether you shop at your neighborhood palengke or a posh supermarket, picking the freshest produce is a skill that one learns from experience. The freshness of the food that you buy will definitely affect the outcome of the food or dish that you prepare.
I personally love grocery shopping and going to the market. There’s something about it that I find therapeutic. But I also understand that not everyone likes doing this chore, so I’ll make it easier for you with some of my tips on how to pick the best and the freshest produce. But first, here are my rules of thumb:
- Support your local public or farmers’ market.
- Use your senses of touch, smell, sight, and hearing. Taste if possible.
- Preferably, shop in the morning. The early bird catches the worm!
- Buy produce in season for the best price and taste.
For cooking: saba and plantains are bananas that are meant to be cooked, so pick the ripe ones if you need them immediately. Black spots on the skin indicate ripeness. Ripe bananas are ideal for making banana cake and turon. For immediate consumption: consider how often you eat bananas. Green bananas will ripen in a few days, so buy half of the bunch in yellow and half in green.
Like bananas, green mangoes also ripen in a few days. Green mangoes must be firm with no blotches or black spots. Ripe mangoes should have sweet, fruity aroma, also with no blemishes on the skin. Mangoes become softer as they ripen. Some varieties of mango are best consumed unripe, some both, and the others ripe. Ask the fruit vendor if you’re not sure of the variety.
Fresh pineapples should be firm. There should be no indented or soft spots. You would know that it’s ripe and juicy if it feels heavy. Some green turning golden yellow is also an indication of its ripeness. The sweet pineapple scent will also tell you that it’s ready to eat. Pineapples no longer ripen after being harvested.
Select a papaya that is almost yellow, then fully ripen it at home. A fully ripe papaya is vibrant yellow-orange in color. Make sure that it’s firm, but can tolerate gentle pressure. It should also be smooth and feels heavy. Do not buy papayas that are soft and have black spots.
Watermelon should feel heavy for its size. Normally, ripe watermelons are heavier than the unripe ones. A ripe watermelon has a yellow splotch on its underside. Tap the underbelly; a ripe watermelon has a deep hollow sound. A dull sound means that it’s probably under-ripe or over-ripe.
The scent of cantaloupes and honeydews will tell you if they’re ripe. They should have a familiar sweet melon aroma. Melons should also feel firm to the touch and heavy for their size.
Garlic bulbs should be unblemished and firm. The skin should be dry. Avoid buying the peeled and separated cloves of garlic.
Onion should feel dry, firm, and heavy in your hand. There should be no blemishes or soft spots. A strong, unpleasant odor indicates that the onion is no longer fresh.
If you will not use the tomatoes right away, pick the green ones or almost red ones or a combination of the two. Tomatoes ripen at room temperature as the days pass. If you have to use them immediately, pick tomatoes that are rich red in color. They should be firm, heavy, and plump for their size.
Buy carrots that are bright orange and smooth with no soft spots or cracks. Make sure the green tops are still attached. Without the green tops, carrots may lose their moisture.
Pick potatoes that are firm, without any cracks or soft or dark spots. Avoid buying potatoes with a green tinge on them as they may indicate harmful toxins. Potatoes that have sprouts mean that they are old.
6. Leafy greens
The best leafy greens have vibrant green color. The leaves should be crisp and full and their stalks should be firm. Younger leafy greens are usually sweeter than the older ones.
There are several things to remember when buying fish. Fresh fish should be firm and shiny. The flesh should bounce back when gently pressed. Check the odor; it should not smell “fishy” but of the sea. The eyes should be glass clear, not dry, cloudy, or sunken. The gills should be pink to red and not slimy or dry. Fish fillets should not have discoloration or blotches and the flesh should be firm and not spongy.
Always buy live shellfish. The shells of live clams and mussels’ should be closed; open shells are no longer fresh. However, they open when submerged in water or when cooked. Do not buy shellfish that has cracked shells.
Like shellfish, always buy live crabs. You would know that they’re alive because their legs still move. Female crabs are usually the meatiest. Check the underside of the crab: female crabs have a bigger, wider abdominal flap.
Shrimps and prawns should be translucent and shiny. There should be no foul-smelling odor. Live shrimps are preferred, but they’re rare and expensive, so make sure that the shrimps are either chilled or frozen. The heads and veins should still be intact. It’s better to clean the shrimps before cooking, not before freezing.
Pork meat should be firm with a grayish pink color. The flesh and skin should not show bruises or black spots and the odor should not be foul. Buy pork cuts with a considerably thin layer of fat, preferably with a small amount of marbling.
Fresh beef has a dark red color and has no foul odor. The flesh should also be firm to the touch, similar to the firmness of the fleshy part of your palm. Select beef cuts with good marbling, but not too fatty. Marbling keeps the beef juicy when you cook it.
Fresh chicken meat is pinkish in color and should spring back when gently pressed. There should be no foul odor. Also, check if it looks bloated, it may indicate that the chicken was injected with water to make it appear bigger and heavier.
Panasonic takes freshness up a notch
Knowing how to pick the freshest produce is a skill that you can learn through experience, but it’s only half the job. Keeping them at their freshest when you get home is an entirely different story.
Does your drinking water sometimes taste fishy? Or does your salad greens smell funny?
This happens if your refrigerator has a poor storage and cooling system. Foods with strong odor contaminate other foods and affect their freshness. But food contamination is not only about the bad taste and smell; bad bacteria can also flourish inside your fridge if your food is not stored properly which can make you and your family sick.
To alleviate the problem, Panasonic created the Ag Clean technology. The powerful technology is a filter coated in silver which has anti-bacterial properties. This cleanses the air in your fridge by effectively inactivating 99% of mold and bacteria that can harm your family’s health.
The Ag Clean technology also has an active enzyme that prevents unpleasant odor from foods (such as smelly fish and fruits) from spreading in your fridge. Not only that, it also keeps the humidity in a perfect balance which helps prolong the freshness of your food, especially fruits and vegetables.
Sounds hard to believe? Hey, I’m just as skeptic as you are that’s why I had to see it for myself.
To learn more about Panasonic and their amazing range of products, visit their Facebook page at Panasonic Philippines.
Disclosure: This is a sponsored content brought to you by Panasonic Philippines. However, my review and opinion are my own to maintain fairness and to protect the integrity of the brand, this blog, and its readers.