There you are, standing in the produce section of your local grocery store, staring at the wide array of fruits and vegetables. But how do you know which items are ripe and which produce is fresh? 

Colin Lyons, a produce buyer for Lunds & Byerlys, suggests, “There is one rule when it comes to selection that I like to tell people to look for: always buy the heaviest weight by volume. Let me explain. Let’s say you have two oranges, one in each hand. As far as you can tell, these oranges have the exact same size and shape; the best orange is typically the heavier one. Dehydration is one of the biggest enemies of produce and will almost always leave you disappointed. When you select fruits and vegetables that feel heavy, it is a testament to their freshness and juiciness.”

Once you’ve gotten your produce home, how should you store it? For the most part, green produce that you find on the fresh, cold rack at the store needs a similar environment in your home. These items should be placed in the fridge as soon as possible. It is also very important to remember that once something is cut, it should always be stored in the fridge until you’re ready to eat it. Other items may not have such obvious storage solutions, so here is a quick guide for keeping your produce fresh.


  • Store at room temperature
  • Ripen on the counter
  • To slow ripening – place in the fridge (this can also hold at desired ripeness).


  • Store at room temperature
  • Ripen on the counter until flesh yields to light pressure
  • Can be held in fridge while unripe


  • Store in fridge at 34° – 38° F
  • No need to ripen – harvested ripe
  • Do not wash until ready to eat, once washed cherries rapidly deteriorate.


  • Store at room temperature or in fridge to lengthen life
  • No need to ripen, harvested ready to eat
  • Although harvested ripe, texture on melons such watermelons, cantaloupes and honeydew may soften.


  • Store at room temperature
  • Harvested ripe
  • Can dehydrate quickly in fridge and green shell does not mean it is under ripe.


  • Store in fridge, 34° – 38° F.
  • Harvested ripe
  • Do not wash until ready to eat, once washed they deteriorate quickly.

Stone Fruit

  • Store at room temperature
  • Ripen on the counter
  • Stone fruits such as apricots, peaches, nectarines and plums dehydrate in the fridge, so avoid if possible.

Mango and Papaya

  • Store at room temperature
  • Ripen on counter until flesh yields to light pressure
  • Ripening can be slowed at lower temperature but can become dehydrated so watch closely.



  • Store at room temperature or fridge for longer life.
  • Harvested already ripened
  • Oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit, etc. are tolerant of both warm and cold, so it is a matter of personal preference.

Peppers, Cucumbers and Zucchini

  • Store in a warmer part of the fridge (i.e. a controllable drawer)
  • No need to ripen, harvested when ripe
  • These items are sensitive to cold, may become rubbery and dehydrated (45° F is optimal).

It is ideal to have produce fresh that is ready to eat immediately after purchase. However, ripeness is often a matter of personal preference. Texture and flavors, for example, can range drastically in different stages of ripeness. Also, a good rule of thumb is to wait to wash until you are ready to eat! While washing produce is always recommended, if you wait to wash it just prior to eating, the life of the produce in your fridge or on your counter will be much longer. Completely drying your produce once it has been washed is a difficult task. The remaining dampness can cause premature breakdown of the skin and from there, yucky decay and mold. This is especially true with soft fruits like berries, cherries, and peaches.

If you are interested in further guidance, TNT offers Grocery Store Tours and In-Home Food and Pantry Prep. Contact us today to learn more.  


Phone: 704-549-9550

List provided in part by Lunds & Byerlys.