5@5 is a daily, food-related list from chefs, writers, political pundits, musicians, actors, and all manner of opinionated people from around the globe.
In case you couldn't tell by our recent tomato sandwich and okra benders, the time is ripe to enjoy the waning days of the summer garden's bounty - and you can bet your (and Mario Batali's) bottom dollar we're going to take advantage of it.
So - how can you tell if that peach really is a perfect pick without taking a bite? Chris Mittelstaedt, founder and CEO of The FruitGuys, has squeezed his way into the 5@5 hot seat with a few produce pointers.
Five Tips on How to Eat Fruit at the Peak of Ripeness: Chris Mittelstaedt
1. Wrinkly is the new black
The passionfruit is another often-misunderstood fruit. This egg-shaped purple wonder may look nice when it’s glossy and smooth, but it’s not ripe until it wrinkles up. When you can smell its unique bubblegum-like sweetness and the skin is really shriveled, then cut the hemisphere into two 'cups' and scoop out the seeds and juice inside with a spoon and enjoy."
2. Pears are introverts
While shy and astringent at first, if you leave it out at room temperature, it will soften and show you signs as to when it’s ripe. It is important to test the pear by gripping it and applying pressure with your thumb and finger. If it yields slightly to the touch on the outside then it will be perfect on the inside.
Some pears (like the green Bartlett for example) will show you a change in color from a green to a yellow tint as they ripen as well."
3. Peaches get cold feet: The best peaches of the year are usually Gemini or Cancers
Many people who buy fruit will put their peaches into the refrigerator not realizing that they are storing these delicate wonders in exactly the temperature that will turn them to brown mush.
It's best to buy peaches fresh and leave them in a shaded space at room temperature for proper ripening. When they give slightly to gentle pressure and smell delicious, they are ready to eat."
4. Dude, is your green grape my blue?
Here is a simple visual cue that will allow you to pick this green grape with greater confidence according to your preference: If the grape color is more of a spring green then the taste will have a fresh but slightly tart bite to it. The skin may also be thicker in this case.
Thompson grapes that have a straw colored or even slightly brown hue to them will be softer and have a flavor that is reminiscent of caramelized sugar. The grape in this form may not look pretty but it sure tastes great."
5. Gassy apples? That's ripe up a banana's alley!
Commercial banana growers expose their fruit to ethylene gas in ripening rooms to get them the right shade of yellow. Peaches, nectarines, and pears will also ripen faster when exposed to this gas.
So how do you know when a banana is at the peak of its ripeness? Color is really key, but your taste buds hold the final say. There are six classified levels of banana ripening. Stages 1 through 4 are too astringent to eat but stage 5 (yellow with green tips) will provide the eater with a balance of both sugar and starch. Stage 6 (all yellow) is considered fully ripe.
Once the banana starts to get brown spots you'll notice that the skin thins as more starch is converted to sugar. Bottom line, be the banana and mind-meld the experience of color, texture and taste to know exactly what stage of ripening you like best."
Is there someone you'd like to see in the hot seat? Let us know in the comments below and if we agree, we'll do our best to chase 'em down.