Don’t Judge a Fruit by Its Peel

very ripe tomato, pepper, avocadoThis post is dedicated to my brother Sholom Wacholder, who died last month at the age of 60. A dedicated reader of this blog, he loved nothing better than a good rabbinic quote. 

My visit to the store last week reminded of the Jewish saying, “Don’t look at the container, but at what is inside it.” (Ethics of the Fathers, 4:2). Roughly translated into English, this means, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” The Talmud references it regarding an ugly man who is very wise and knowledgeable. And it can apply in the kitchen too!

Usually, when we pick fruits and vegetables, we look for the most attractive. But we pay a premium for that privilege. And what looks best in the store, is not necessarily the tastiest.

I noticed three different types of produce being sold for a discount: Tomatoes, avocados, and sweet peppers. As you can see from the pictures, the tomatoes looked dented and spotted, the peppers wrinkled (you may need to look closely), and the avocado skins mostly black. My adult son, who came along to help, was especially skeptical about those avocados. I told him that we might have to throw out 10-20% of the produce, but it would still be worth it.

But when I got home and sliced open a sample, the quality of the produce spoke for itself. I paid about 20-30% of the cost advertised for the higher-quality items in the same store. I had planned to cook the peppers, but they were sweet enough for salads after cutting out a black spot here and there. Those tomatoes were the best we’ve had in months.

Some tips of the avocados could not be saved, and I had to throw out two whole ones. But they were small and most were delicious, with a perfect ripeness and color. And they have kept well in the refrigerator.

Produce quality peaks just when it is about to go soft and spoil. But that is too late for the store, which risks losing the produce to spoilage. If you can use of the fruits and vegetables the store can’t sell within a reasonable time, I suggest taking a chance.

It’s fun to gamble and win! Have you ever been pleasantly surprised by sorry-looking produce?

You may also enjoy:

Guide to Choosing Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

Is That Avocado Ripe Enough to Eat?

Cooking with Our Mothers, Cooking with Our Children

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