A Handpicked Guide To Produce

What you should look for when buying fresh fruits and vegetables.

3 min read




At L’OCA Quality Market, we strive to carry quality products throughout our store, but we also encourage our guests to come in armed with tons of knowledge of how to select the best produce.

But not all fruits and vegetables are created equal!

"Some items, like salads, come with a ‘best before date’ already printed on their packaging,” says Laura Lopez Heredia, Produce Team Leader at L’OCA Quality Market Sherwood Park. However, for many other items, “you need to learn how to read nature’s signs and indicators.”

Laura has pulled together some helpful tips you can use next time, and every time you’re purchasing fresh produce.

Expert Tips

Selecting ripe and ready produce often involves using a combination of visual cues, touch, and smell.
Here are some tips from our produce expert…


Trust your nose!

“Don’t be embarrassed to give the base of a pineapple a whiff!” says Laura. “If it smells sweet and fragrant, there’s a good chance it’s ready.”

On the other hand, no scent can indicate that the pineapple is not yet ripe, while an unpleasant scent could its overripe, or even spoiled.

“Green leaves are also a good indicator of ripeness… a ripe and ready pineapple should have leaves that are easy to pull out.”


At L’OCA, promoting equality is a fundamental priority. However, when it comes to eggplants, the male versions of this nightshade are often preferred.

“Without going into a lesson about the birds and the bees,” laughs Laura, “male eggplants do contain fewer seeds.”

Wondering how to tell the difference? 

“Just take a look at their bottoms... If it has a round dimple, it’s a male, and if it’s more oval-shaped, it’s a female eggplant.”


"As odd as it may sound,” comments Laura, “a head of garlic really shouldn’t smell like garlic."
"All those paper-thin layers are designed to protect the cloves… which means they [also] keep their scent in." Laura adds that a fresh bulb should have a firm texture, be free of soft spots, and be sprout-free.


“Spear diameter doesn't reflect the maturity of asparagus…the tips do! Think of asparagus like freshly cut flowers," Laura continues, "If the ends are kept moist, the tips—just like the petals of a flower—will be properly hydrated. So, look for tips that are tight and firm, and not feathery or open.”

Ready or Not?

Every produce department should be stocked with fruits, vegetables, and herbs at varying stages of ripeness.
While certain products are meant to be ready to eat, others may need more time to reach their peak freshness.

With a stop light, green means 'Go,' and yellow means 'Slow down'.
With a banana, however, it is quite the opposite...
Yellow means 'Go', green means 'Whoa, slow down!', and red means 'Where the heck did you get that banana??'
Mitch Hedberg

Just like bananas, avocados are often available for sale at different stages of ripeness.
One should select an avocado depending on when it’s meant to be consumed.
From firm and unyielding to perfectly ripe, let’s take a look at how anyone can pick the perfect avocado, every time.

Avocados: From rock to guac...

Avocados often arrive at grocery stores in a bright green, hard, and unripe state.
This means they need 4-6 days at room temperature to ripen, so plan accordingly.
Next, avocados will darken a bit. They'll still feel firm, though, indicating this "almost there" stage that lasts 3-5 more days until perfect ripeness.
Even though the colours can vary greatly In the third stage, once the avocado gives slightly when gently pressed, it’s ready-to-eat!
To extend peak ripeness, avocados can be refrigerated for 1-3 days, but keep an eye on them, because once an avocado reaches its final stage of ripeness, the flesh inside may develop brown patches or become fibrous.
Tell tale signs are that the outer skin has darkened, shriveled, and turned soft, almost mushy to the touch.

Need Help?

"If you ever have any questions about how to select the right piece of fruit or vegetable, come into the store and don’t hesitate to ask one of our produce team members,” concludes Laura.