If you learned to cook from your mother, do you wonder why she never told you the one all-purpose way to tell when fruit is ripe and ready to eat? That’s because there isn’t one. There are more than 50 different species of fruit, and they all mature in different ways.

  • Bananas and avocados are picked green and ripen off the tree.
  • Most varieties of pears can be picked when full-sized but still green and very firm. Place them in a warm place and they ripen in a few days.
  • Nectarines and plums can be picked when colorful but still very firm. They will ripen to your desired amount of firmness or softness after a few days at room temperature.
  • Oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruit won’t ripen after being picked from the tree.
  • Most pineapples in the United States and Canada are from Hawaii. These pineapples have a golden yellow tan or reddish orange color when ripe. The golden color starts at the bottom. The upper part of the pineapple may be green but the further the golden color rises up the pineapple, the sweeter it will be. The true test for ripeness in all pineapples is to look at the bottom of the fruit. A yellow color breaking through the bottom indicates that sugar has developed in the pineapple and is ready to eat. If no yellow color exists, the sugar has not developed and the pineapple will not be sweet.
  • Most peaches taste best from late June through August. At farm stands, aroma is an indicator. Fruit should smell as good as it tastes. Ripe cantaloupe should give a sweet aroma when sniffed where the stem was attached. But scent doesn’t always work in supermarkets, since refrigeration stunts the bouquet.
  • Apples are crisp and flavorful when full-sized and when they display the identifying color of their variety. Most apples mature during the Autumn months of September and October. There are also a few Summer varieties.
  • Color is also a tip-off with certain fruits. Ripe peaches have a rich, yellowish undertone, as do cantaloupes, while watermelons should have a whitish yellow color on the underbelly side. They should also resonate when slapped, like a musical instrument.
  • Strawberries, cherries, raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries are ripe and should be picked when the berry shows a rich, even color with no white spots.
  • Grapes are harvested when fully ripe yet firm. Use color as a guide to the sweetness of the fruit. Green grapes should have a yellow cast or straw color with a touch of amber, when fully ripe. Red grapes should be a deep crimson, not a milky or pale red. Blue grapes should be darkly hued, almost black, not pale or tinged with green. Grapes should be plump. You can always judge the freshness of grapes by the stem. The greener the stem, the fresher the grapes.

Fresh fruit provides Vitamin A (apha-carotene, beta-carotene and retinol), Vitamin C, most of the B Vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, folate and folic acid), and fiber.

Frozen grapes are a great, nutritious snack for kids. Put Red Flame or other seedless grapes on a tray in the freezer. When frozen, put them in a resealable plastic bag and return then to the freezer. Then kids can have sweet, frozen snacks anytime.

Prepare a fresh fruit salad by mixing your choice of fruit cut into cubes or balls. Chill the mixture in the refrigerator as the juices blend. No dressing is required. My favorite fruit salad combination is grapes, cantaloupe, watermelon, pineapple, and strawberries.

For a simple but delicious dip for fruit mix equal amounts of whipped topping, marshmallow fluff, and fruit-flavored yogurt. Lime, lemon, orange, and strawberry yogurt taste great with fresh fruit.

Stuffed Pineapple Boats

This is a fun tropical recipe for special guests or a backyard luau.

2 small to medium pineapples

1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger or 1/3 teaspoon Watkins Ground Ginger

12 to 16 ounces roasted chicken breast meat, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

1 teaspoon Watkins Orange Extract

1 tablespoon almond or walnut oil

1 cup diced celery

Salt to taste

2 tablespoons sliced, toasted almonds

2 tablespoons shredded coconut

1 teaspoon minced jalapeño pepper

  1. First hollow each pineapple. Cut pineapples in half lengthwise through crown and leaves. Remove the inner core by making a V cut underneath it, then lifting it out. With a short, sharp knife, cut all around the inside of the fruit leaving a 1/2 inch thick rim all around. Lift out the fruit inside the cavity and cut into 1/2-inch cubes or ball shapes. The attached leaves add to the decoration. To keep the boat from rocking, it may be necessary to cut a thin slice from the bottom of each half.
  2. You should have about 6 cups of cut up pineapple. Save any juice for the dressing as you work. Squeeze out juice from any bits of extra pineapple to extract more juice. You should have about 1/4 cup juice.
  3. If serving immediately combine pineapple with chicken, celery, almonds, and jalapeño in a mixing bowl. Combine ginger, vinegar, orange extract, oil, salt, and reserved pineapple juice in a separate bowl. Pour over salad mixture and mix well.
  4. Put boats on large plates. Stuff each with 1/4 of the salad mixture and sprinkle with coconut. Serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.

If you are entertaining a group of guests choose a large pineapple for a serving dish, add salad mixture to pineapple halves, and let guests serve themselves.

Cooking Tip

To prepare this dish in advance, mix all ingredients except chicken. Stir in the chicken just before serving. The acids and enzymes in the pineapple turn the meat to mush after a few hours. Turkey or pork tenderloin may be used in place of chicken in this recipe.