Strawberries: Can You Pick The Sweetest?

Lots of people have trouble identifying the best, ripest fruit in the supermarket produce aisle. Do you thump melons or sniff them or look for a bald spot? Do you buy nearly ripe bananas or the green ones? Can peaches be made better by hiding them in a paper bag for a day? And what about strawberries? Are the reddest ones the best? How can you tell?

Unlike bananas and peaches, strawberries don’t continue to ripen after picking, so it’s vital to select the sweetest ones you can find at the store. But short of taking a bite out of each one, how can you tell which are ripe for the choosing? So, here’s what Cooks Illustrated magazine has to say about it.

After purchasing several quarts of berries for Strawberry Cream Cake, we realized that few inhabitants of the produce aisle have as uncanny an ability to look perfect yet taste disappointingly bland. Unlike fruits such as bananas and peaches, which continue to ripen after picking (and are called climacteric), strawberries (nonclimacteric) don’t get any sweeter once off the vine, so it’s vital to select the sweetest ones you can find. Strawberries continue to develop a deep red pigment (called anthocyanin), but a berry that looks redder is not necessarily a berry that tastes sweeter.

What, then, is the best way to pick out a ripe pint of strawberries? Being upstanding citizens, we would never officially one method–tearing open a berry or two to see if the red pigment extends all the way to the core, which can be a reliable sign. (Or, better yet, stealing a quick taste.) The third-best method? Taking a whiff. A sweet, fruity aroma is a much better indicator of what lies beneath the rosy exterior than the rosy exterior itself.

Strawberries should be coming into season near you soon, so now that you now how to pick ’em in the store, why not pick some up and give a simple dessert a try.

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