Massachusetts Grown...and Fresher!

Produce Tips

Apples Cucumber Pears Spinach
Asparagus Eggplant Peas Strawberries
Beets Greenbeans Peppers Summer Squash
Blueberries Greens Plums Sweet Corn
Carrots Lettuce Potatoes Tomatoes
Cauliflower Onions Raspberries Winter Squash
Cranberries Peaches    

GENERAL TIPS:
Refrigerate fruits and vegetables in perforated plastic bags to help maintain moisture yet provide air flow. You can use a knife to make several small holes in a food-grade plastic bag (about 20 holes per medium-size bag). 

If fruits and vegetables are stored on the refrigerator shelves, be sure to store them above meats and poultry to avoid contamination. Fresh produce should be washed before you use it, not when you bring it home to ensure the best quality and to avoid spoilage.


Name Varieties/ Description Selection Storage
Apples
Apples
The many varieties of apples differ widely in appearance, flesh, characteristics, seasonal availability and suitability for different uses. For good eating as fresh fruit: McIntosh, Macoun, Red & Golden Delicious, Cortland. Select firm, well-shaped apples with good color. Avoid blemishes and soft spots. Small quantities should be refrigerator-stored in a plastic bag that has a few perforated holes. These holes allow air into the bag so the apples can breathe. Store large quantities in a cool dark airy place.
Asparagus
Asparagus
Prized for its delicious flavor, asparagus has been cultivated since Greco-Roman times. Long before asparagus was used as a food, it was valued for the medicinal properties of all its parts. Today, this velvety green vegetable is prized for its eating quality, making it a very popular vegetable. Asparagus is a seasonal vegetable and is available in Massachusetts from early May to early July. Massachusetts grown asparagus can be purchased at farm stands, farmer's markets and supermarkets. When selecting asparagus, allow approximately 1/2 pound per serving. One pound will about 14 spears, 9 to 10 inches long and 1/2 to 3/4 inches thick. Choose asparagus with smooth, tender skin and compact pointed tips. An inch or so of woody base can be trimmed off or "snapped" just before cooking. Refrigerate asparagus standing upright in a container or water. This keeps the spears fresh and crisp. If this isn't possible, wrap the asparagus at the base with a damp towel. Use as soon as possible. Asparagus will keep in the refrigerator three to five days
Beets
Beets
Beets are one of the few vegetables of which we eat two parts - the root and the leaves. 1 pound of beets without tops gives 2 cups of cooked beets. 2 to 3 1/2 lbs. are needed to make 1 quart of canned beets. 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 lb. will make 1 pint of frozen beets; 1 bushel (52lb) will make 35 to 42 pints of frozen beets. 1 pound of beet greens gives 4-6 cups of cooked greens. 1 to 1 1/2 lb. are needed for 1 pint of frozen greens; 15lb. for 10-15 pints of frozen greens.   Choose beets that are round, smooth, and firm. The color should be deep red: the main root should be slender. Fresh tops indicate fresh beets, although firm beets may be satisfactory even though the tops are wilted or decayed. Very large beets may be woody and fibrous and may not become tender even after long cooking. Choose beet greens that look fresh and unblemished. They should have a good green and reddish color. Beets: Remove the tops 1 to 2 inches above the beet. Keep refrigerated in the vegetable crisper or in plastic bags or containers to prevent wilting due to to loss of moisture. Use beets within 1 to 2 weeks. Greens: Wash greens thoroughly in cold water and drain well. Refrigerate them in the vegetable crisper or in plastic bags or containers to prevent wilting and loss of nutrients. Use within 3 to 5 days.
Blueberries
Blueberries
Varieties of blueberries that are more commonly grown in Massachusetts are Berkley, Bluecrop, Coville and Earliblue. These varieties yield berries of good size, color and flavor. They are also ideal for freezing. When picking or buying blueberries, your best indicating of quality is a dark blue color with a silvery bloom, which is natural protective waxy coating. Store berries covered and unwashed in the refrigerator. Wash berries just before using and use within one week.
Carrots
Carrots
Carrots, which are members of the parsley family, were being grown in New England as early as the midle 1600's. The first varieties of carrots, which resembled the present-day, cultivated types were grown in the Arab countries, and were originally purple, though some yellow-green varieties extised. By the mid-18th century, the orange-yellow carrot had superseded the purple kind. Choose carrots which are well-formed, smooth and blemish free. Smaller carrots are more tender, and deeper color indicates higher amounts of Vitamin A. Avoid wilted, flabby carrots, or ones with large, "sunburned" green areas at the tops. Excessive leaf stems indicate that the carrot has an undesirably lare core. Carrots may not be stored in the refrigerator in plastic bags for several weeks without loss of nutritional value. Remove tops before storing to keep them from absorbing all of the vegetable's moisture.
Cauliflower
Cauliflower
The creamy white cauliflower, a member of the cabbage family and closely related to broccoli, is both nutritious and delicious. Just when and where it first appeared is uncertain but the oldest record dates back to the 6th century B.C. Good quality cauliflower is indicated by white or creamy-white, clean, firm, compact curd, with the jacket leaves (outer leaf portion remaining) fresh and green. Small leaves extending through the curd do not affect edible quality. Large or small heads, equally mature, are equally desirable. A slightly "ricy" or granular appearance is not objectionable unless the flower clusters are spreading. Avoid a spreading of the curd which is a sign of aging and overmaturity. Also avoid severe wilting or many discolored spots on the curd. Keep cold and humid and use as soon as possible.
Cranberries
Cranberries
Cranberries are a bright red berry of the plant Vaccinium of the heath family which also includes the huckleberry and the lingonberry. The berry grew in low-lying sections in Massachusetts long before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth. The Indians used the little berries to dye their colorful robes, treat arrow wounds and to make an early day convenience food called pemmican, combining venison, fat and crushed berries. The Wampanoag Indians of Cape Cod introduced their treasured berries, which they called Sassamanesh, to the Pilgrims, who renamed them the "crane berries' because the pink blossoms resembled the head of a crane. Choose cranberries that are firm and plump with a lustrous color. A high luster indicates ripeness and good quality. Color varies from bright to dark red depending on variety. Duller varieties should at least have some red color. Sort fresh berries, discarding any with soft brown spots. Cranberries may be stored in the refrigerator for one to four weeks. Cranberries can easily be stored for up to a year or more using today's canning and freezig methods. They need only be sorted, washed an packaged before freezing. Good-quality berries may be stored in the original package.
Cucumbers
Cucumbers
Cucumbers, which originated in northwest India, are related to pumpkins, squashes, gourds, melons, watermelons and chayote. The large types are usually eaten as they are. The smaller ones are often pickled. Choose cucumbers that are well-shaped and completely firm overall. They should have a good green color although some white or greenish-white color is all right. A large number of small surface lumps is normal. Very large cucumbers or cucumbers with yellowing skin are over-mature and have hard seeds. Wash cucumbers and dry then thoroughly. Keep refrigerated in the vegetable crisper or in plastic bags to prevent wilting due to loss of moisture. Use cucumbers within one week.
Eggplant
Eggplant
The name eggplant refers to the fact that some 18th century European varieties were yellow or white and resembled hen or goose eggs.  The most commonly found variety today is an elongated dark purple variety.  Eggplant is found in a wide variety of ethnic dishes including Italian, French, Indian, Middle-Eastern, Greek, and Japanese, and has now worked its way into American cuisine.  To test if an eggplant is ripe, whole the vegetable in your palm and gently press your thumb against the skin.  If the flesh presses in but bounces back, it is ready.  Skin that doesn’t give and is too hard is immature.  If the thumb indentation remains, the eggplant is over-ripe and will have a bitter taste and large tough seeds. Eggplant does not like the cold and should only be stored for 3-4 days in the refrigerator.  Use eggplant while the stem and leaves are still slightly green and fresh looking. 
Greenbeans
Greenbeans
The second most popular home-grown vegetable next to tomatoes, green beans are a warm weather, tender vegetable.  Green beans come in a few different varieties such as pole beans, string beans, and snap beans.   If you can see the bulge of a bean through the pod, it is over-matured and should be shelled (except for pole beans).  An over-mature green bean is too tough to eat.  Fresh beans can be stored unwashed in a plastic bag in the vegetable crisper of the refrigerator for 3-5 days.
Greens
Greens
Collards: are recognized by their woody stalks and dark green leaves with a bloom on the leaf. Kale: is yellowish-green in color, has lacy, very curled leaves growing on thick stalks in a head almost like cabbage. Mustard greens: have broad leaves larger than collards, are yellowish-green in color with long stalks and a pungent taste. Choose which greens leaves that fresh, young and unblemished. 1 pound of greens yields 4-6 cups cooked greens. 1 bushel (12lb.) of collards and mustard greens gives 8-12 pints of frozen greens. 1 bushel (18lb.) of kale gives 12-18 pints of frozen greens. 2-6 pounds of greens are needed to make 1 quart of canned greens. Wash greens well in several changes of water to remove sand and dirt: drain thoroughly. Store greens in the refrigerator in the vegetable crisper or in plastic bags to prevent loss of moisture. Greens are best if used within several days.
Lettuce
Lettuce
Lettuce has many different varieties such as Butterhead which includes Boston, Bibb, Buttercrunch, and Tom Thumb, Stem or Chinese lettuce which is often cooked in stews and stir-fries, Iceberg, Romaine or Cos, and Leaf lettuce.  Iceberg lettuce is the most commonly used variety but provides the least nutrition.  Other varieties are rich in vitamin C, calcium, iron, fiber, and copper.  Lettuce leaves should be free of wilt, rot, and rust.  To store, wrap unwashed lettuce in plastic wrap and place in the vegetable crisper drawer in the refrigerator for up to five days.  Lettuce keeps best at 32 degrees Fahrenheit and high humidity.  Avoid storing lettuce in the same drawer as apples, pears, or bananas.  These fruits release a natural ripening agent that causes lettuce to decay faster.  Always wash lettuce thoroughly before eating.    
Onions
Onions
Onions are a versatile vegetable that can be eaten raw, broiled, boiled, baked, creamed, steamed, fried, grilled, or pickled.  Onion is often found in soups and sauces as a flavor backbone.   Onions are typically classified by color with white, red, yellow, and green varieties, all distinct in taste varying from sweet, sharp, mild, or pungent. Onions contain healthy oils which protect against heart disease. Green onions should be at least 6 inches long and increase in flavor with age and size.  Red, white, and yellow varieties vary in size and should be free of visible blemishes. Green onions will keep for a few days in the freezer.  Mature onions can be dried and hung in mesh bags in a cool dry place for several months.  To avoid tearing up when preparing onions, refrigerate peeled onions before chopping.  Chilling inactivates the sulfur compound which normally floats through the air and converted to sulfuric acid when it comes into contact with the water in your eyes.  
Peaches
Peaches
Most peaches in the US have yellow flesh and tend to have more of an acid-tang than a white peach.  Originally from Asia, white flesh peaches are becoming more popular in America.  They are very sweet with low acidity.  Peaches are delicious by them self, as well as in both sweet and savory dishes. Choose peaches that are firm to the touch but will give to a little pressure.  The fruit should be unblemished and free of bruises.  A good indication of maturity is a well defined cleft in the shape of the peach.  Peaches can fully ripen at home if put in a paper bag with holes and put away from sunlight.  Check the ripeness as the peach can quickly turn from underripe to overripe. Unwashed peaches will keep for 3-5 days when stored in the refrigerator.  Wash just before eating, not before storing. 
Pears
Pears
The pear is very similar to the apple in cultivation, propagation, and pollination but differ in “grit” giving it a unique texture.  There is a wide variety of pears available to consumers and are rich in vitamin C, fiber, copper, and potassium. Look for a firm fruit that yields to gentle pressure.  Pears nick and bruise very easily due to their thin skin so handle with care.  Choose firmer pears for baking.  The ideal coloring of a pear depends on the variety.  Pears can fully ripen at home if placed in a fruit bowl next to a banana or apple. Pears can be stored for 3-5 days in the refrigerator.  Use your crisper drawer in the refrigerator for whole fruits.
Peas
Peas
Peas can be classified as garden peas, snow peas, and snap peas.  Garden peas are rich in protein, iron, and fiber, while sugar snap peas contain less protein but are an excellent source of iron and vitamin C. Green garden peas need to be shelled while edible-pod peas can be eaten whole.  Smaller pods are sweeter and more tender.  Shelled peas should be plump but small. Fresh unshelled, unwashed peas will keep for 2-4 days in perforated plastic bags in the refrigerator.  As much as 40 percent of the sugar is converted in a few hours so the sooner they are eaten the better. 
Peppers
Peppers
Sweet bell peppers are native to tropical America and are related to pimentos, and cayenne, but not to the white and black peppers from the Orient. Choose unblemished peppers which have a glossy medium to dark green color. They should be relatively heavy for their size and have firm walls or sides. Peppers which are to be stuffed should be chunky so they will not tip over. Wash and dry peppers. Store them in the vegetable crisper or in plastic bags in the refrigerator. Use peppers within one week.
Plums
Plums
Plums come in a rainbow of different colors and contain a special antioxidant called phenols.  Phenols help protect against neurological and cellular damage.  Plums are also rich in vitamin C, A, and fiber. For juicy plums, sweet or tart, choose ones that yield to gentle pressure and are slightly soft at the stem and tip.  Avoid plums that are wrinkled, blemished, cut or overly soft.  Firm plums can ripen at home. Plums can fully ripen at home in an unopened paper bag and will keep for 3-5 days when stored in the refrigerator.  Use your crisper drawer in the refrigerator for whole fruits.
Potatoes
Potatoes
Known as one of the most important staple crops in the American diet, potatoes are both economical and a nutritional powerhouse, rich in potassium and fiber. There are over 100 varieties of potatoes, the most common include: white-skinned, red-skinned, and russet.  Potatoes can be classified as round-white, round-red, oblong-white, and yellow fleshed.  Potatoes should be firm and free of soft spots.  Store unwashed potatoes in a cool, dark place with good air circulation.  Do not refrigerate potatoes.  Excessively cold temperatures cause the starch in potatoes to convert to sugar, resulting in an unnaturally sweet flavor and a brown color.  Potatoes can be stored for up to two weeks at room temperature.  Potatoes that have sprouted can still be eaten after cutting away the “eyes” as long as it is still firm.    
Raspberries
Raspberries
Raspberries can be enjoyed throughout the year.  Simply wash fresh berries with water, blot with a paper towel, and spread in a single layer on a cookie sheet, then placed in the freezer.  Once frozen, store in a sealable plastic container.  Frozen berries can be added to muffin or pancake batter.  High quality raspberries are uniform in red color with a hollow center and a slight shine.  Raspberries should appear unblemished and dry.   Avoid raspberries that are mushy, watery, or wrinkled.  Raspberries are a highly delicate and perishable fruit.  Ripe raspberries will keep for up to one week in a dry, sealed container in the refrigerator.  Overripe berries should be eaten within 24 hours.
Spinach
Spinach
To the Chinese this vegetable was once known as the "herb of Persia"; many Americans remember it as Popeye's favorite. By whatever name, though, the dark green, curly leaves of the spinach plant provide nutrition in the diet and variety to the menu. Choose spinach that is clean, fresh, young, tender and of a good green color. Avoid large leaves that are yellow, discolored, wilted, bruised or crushed. 1 pound of fresh spinach will yield about 4  1/2 -cup servings of cooked spinach. 1 bushel (18 lbs.) yields about 12 to 18 pts. Spinach is one of the most perishable commodities and is therefore not stored for long periods of time. For best results, store in the crisper section of the refrigerator, or in plastic bags up to five days.
Strawberries
Strawberries
Here in Massachusetts, fresh native strawberries are one of nature's most appealing signs of summer. The peak season is mid-June through early July. Strawberries are often enjoyed as dessert, but there's no reason why these luscious, juicy mouthfuls can't be featured elsewhere, such as at breakfast or in salads. Native strawberries are extra flavorful, sweet and juicy since they are vine-ripened close to market. Choose glossy, firm berries with 75-100 percent red color and bright green caps attached. Avoid the appearance of moisture, dirt or decay. Sort the berries at home, removing any softened ones. Do not remove caps or wash berries until you are ready to use them. Place the berries loosely in shallow containers so air can circulate. Refrigerated berries should stay fresh about two days. Strawberries with 75 percent red color will ripen in one day at room temperature. Strawberries to be frozen should be firm and bright red in color. Off flavors will develop from fruit that is overripe or bruised.
Summer Squash
Summer Squash
A warm season, tender vegetable, summer squash differs from other squash varieties in that it is selected before the rind hardens and the fruit matures. Summer squash comes in many different shapes and colors.  The most common local varieties are green zucchini squash and crooked and straight neck yellow summer squash.  Summer squash should be harvested (and purchased) at six to eight inches in length.  Summer squash is best when it is immature, young, and tender Store unwashed summer squash in a perforated plastic bag in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator.  It will keep for 4-5 days. 
Sweet Corn
Sweet Corn
Corn has long been popular in Massachusetts. It was an important crop of the Indians who introduced it to the Pilgrims in 1620. It is a cereal grain and thus related to wheat, oats, barley, sorghum, rice. Sweet corn provides a fair amount of vitamin C and useful amounts of other vitamins. Choose ears of sweet corn which have fresh, green, succulent husks. The silk ends should be free of decay and worm damage while the stem ends should not be too discolored or dry. Kernels should be plump but not too mature, and should cover the ear well; they should be soft and milky.
  • 1 dozen ears of corn gives about 2 cups of cooked kernels.
  • 3 to 6 lbs. give 1 quart of canned corn.
  • 1 bushel (35 lbs.) gives 14-17 pts. frozen corn; 2lbs. gives 1 pt. frozen corn.
Leave the husks on and store corn, uncovered, in the refrigerator. For sweetest taste, use corn as soon as possible.
Tomatoes
Tomatoes
Tomatoes are so popular today it is hard to believe that extensive commercial production in the United States did not begin until about 1884. Used as a vegetable, the tomato is botanically a fruit. Tomatoes which have the best taste are those which have been allowed to ripen completely before being picked. Choose fully ripe tomatoes which are unblemished, slightly soft, with an overall rich red color. If you want tomatoes which are slightly less that fully ripe they should be firm and range in color from pink to light red. One pound of tomatoes, three or four small tomatoes, gives about one and a half cups of cooked tomatoes . Two and a half to three and a half pounds will make one quart of canned tomatoes To ripen, spread out tomatoes in an area at about 60-70 degrees F, but ripen away from bright light. Fully ripe tomatoes should be kept uncovered in the refrigerator where the cold will inhibit the ripening process. Use them within a week.
Winter Squash
Winter Squash
Winter squash is a versatile, warm season vegetable.  Unlike summer squash, winter squash is grown to a mature stage where the rind is toughened and the skin is hard.  It’s a good source of fiber, potassium, iron, vitamin B3, and beta carotene.  Common winter squash varieties include acorn, spaghetti, butternut, and true winter squash. Look for squash with a hard rind that’s free of cuts or bruises.  Large, hard rind winter squash can be stored in a cool dry place such as a garage or basement for up to six months.  Smaller varieties like acorn and butternut squash will keep for up to three months under the same conditions.  Do not store whole squash in the refrigerator.