How to Check for Fresh Florida Produce

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Many Fresh Markets are opening up around South Florida for the busy tourist season ahead. Hillsboro Market West of Dixie, The Green Market in Boca , and City of Parkland Farmer's Market are just a few. The Yellow and Green Farmer's Market recently opened in Hollywood.

Here are things to watch for when picking up produce:

Check for blemishes. Avoid all produce with mold or mushy spots. Other no-no's: mushrooms with slimy coating, lettuce with brown edges, pineapples with dark spots on the base, tomatoes with cracks and bell peppers with wrinkled skin.

Eyeball the color. As a general rule, the stems of plants should be green and the fruit should be the color you expect. Strawberries should be a deep red all the way down to the stem, for example, while cut watermelon should be pink, not pale.

Test the smell. Not all fruit smells sweet, but a sour odor typically means it has started to go bad.

Test the weight. If a piece of fruit such as a peach, mango or plum feels heavy for its size, you're likely making a good—and juicy—choice.

Aim for firm. Buds, florets and caps on vegetables such as artichokes, broccoli and mushrooms generally should be closed tightly, not splayed open.

Be wary of bulk purchases. Take home only as much as you'll realistically use in a few days to a week (ask a produce manager how long an item will keep). Large bags and tubs also are more likely to have spoiled items hidden inside.

Pluck out bad pieces. Immediately inspect fruit at home and toss rotten items that could quickly spoil a whole batch.

Consider how you'll use leftovers. Buy vegetables that you can steam and throw into soups and casseroles once they've begun to spoil. You also can turn older fruit into jam and rotten bananas into bread.

Here is a list of all the farmers' markets this weekend:
 
 •Saturday, November 13, 2010, Coconut Grove Farmers' Market: 10am-7pm, 3300 Grand Ave, Coconut Grove, 305-238-7747.

 •Saturday, November 13, 2010, Deering Estate at Cutler Farmers' Market: 8am-1pm, 16701 SW 72 Ave, Miami, 305-235-1668.

 •Sunday, November 14, 2010, Lincoln Road Farmer's Market: 9:00am-6:30pm, 800-1000 block of Lincoln Road, Miami Beach, 305-775-2166.

 •Sunday, November 14, 2010, Mary Brickell Village Farmers' Market: 10:00am-2:00pm, 900 block of South Miami Ave, Miami, 305-775-2166.

 •Sunday, November 14, 2010, Pinecrest Garden's Farmers' Market: 9:00am-2:00pm, 11000 Red Road, Pinecrest, 305-669-6990.

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