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July, 2010

By Mark Mulcahy

It's getting hot outside and you don't feel like cooking. You still want to eat right so you head to the produce department and are greeted with a wonderful array of healthy choices from Melissa's Organic Produce.

It's getting hot outside and you don't feel like cooking. You still want to eat right so you head to the produce department and are greeted with a wonderful array of healthy choices from Melissa's Organic Produce.

But how do you know if what you are picking is the best tasting, if it is ripe, or how to get the best value for what are buying? Besides knowing that you can always count on the Melissa's label, it is a common question that many people have during this time of year. So I have put together some tips to help you get the most out of your Melissa's organic summer favorites.

Cantaloupe
One of the most popular summer melons is the cantaloupe, but how do you know if it is ripe? Here are some good tips to try when selecting your next cantaloupe. First, pick it up; hold it in both hands. Gently but firmly press the indentation on the bottom of the melon (opposite the stem end). It should have some give. If it's rock hard, put it down; it won't ripen. Next look at the color beneath the raised netting. It should be beige or buff colored. A gray-green background color indicates the melon isn't ripe. Finally, give it a good whiff. If you detect a rich, melon aroma and everything else checks out, buy it; you've got a winner.

If you are trying to get the best flavor from your cantaloupe, it is best to "ripen" it at room temperature, 70 degrees is the optimum temp for up to four days. The ripening will accelerate as the temperature increases. So be sure to check them daily. When ripe, you can keep them in your refrigerator for 10 to 14 days.

Blueberries
Who can resist summertime blueberries? Not many. So how do you choose and keep them?

First, look for blueberries that are plump and firm; they should be blue to a very deep blue in color and have a slight frosty silver color on their skin. This frosting is known as "bloom" and is a sign of freshness. If you don't eat them as soon as you get home, they can be stored, tightly covered, in the refrigerator for up to one week, but should only be washed when you're ready to eat them. If you want to store them longer so you can enjoy the taste of summer next winter, place a single layer of berries on a cookie sheet and freeze for an hour, then refreeze in a storage container, they'll be good in recipes for the next nine months. You won't lose valuable nutrients either. According to the FDA, many frozen fruits retain their nutritional value longer than fresh fruit.


Apricots
Another summer favorite are apricots. They're loaded with vitamins A and C, and contain potassium, copper, calcium and iron. They are as healthy as they are delicious. The best apricots are golden orange, with little or no green, and are firm, but not hard. Avoid dull, bruised or hard, green fruit. Apricots are ready when they give to gentle palm pressure and have a nice aroma. Some of the newer varieties, developed for shipping, are eaten fully colored but firm. They aren't as sweet as old-time apricots but have a pleasant tartness. They will continue to ripen at home if you leave them out on the counter (and even faster in a paper bag). Although it's tempting when they are ripe to put them in the refrigerator, it's risky as the fruit may turn mushy, and no one likes mushy apricots. If you are taking a green salad to a picnic.




Tomatoes
Slice and add your tomatoes to the top of the salad just before serving. Why? Because when they are cut and added to the salad during preparation, the juice from the tomato can wilt your greens and thin your dressing. Enjoy the bounty!