How to Pick Fresh Veggies

When choosing fresh veggies, my first thought goes straight to the garden.

Growing up in Virginia, we would visit my grandparents every summer in North Carolina.  My Grandfather had this huge, amazing garden and a green thumb to go along with.  I remember sitting in the kitchen with my Grandma shucking corn and snapping peas, but my favorite of all were the fresh tomatoes.

My grandparents, Victor & Joy

I can’t think of anything that beats a fresh ripe garden tomato.  Especially when they are used to make homemade salsa!  Unfortunately, I did not inherit the green thumb (but I’m working on it).  So where do I go to get these fresh garden tomatoes?

Fast forward to today: I am living in a cute island town near Charleston, SC called Daniel Island.  They have a farmers market every Thursday afternoon.  Farmers and other food artisans set up booths for us islanders to browse and pick up some extra yummy goodies.




Me, picking out some squash

The Market has everything from freshly made pasta to a local artisan cheese house, and the farmers have those fresh tomatoes that I have loved since a child.




But, how do you know if you are choosing a ripe tomato, cucumber, or other fresh veggie? I went ahead and compiled a list of the tips and tricks for popular market veggies (listed below AND on a handy, printable card you can download).

Feel free to print it off and take it with you to your local farmers market!


  • Asparagus: Firm with tightly closed tips. Best when around 6 inches long.
  • Avocado: Should yield to firm gentle pressure. If it’s firm it still needs time to ripen.
  • Cabbage: Will be firm to the touch with bright, crisp leaves.  Avoid if the leaves have become wilted and discolored.
  • Beets: Should be heavy for their size and show no surface nicks or cuts. If sold with their tops on, the greens will show wilting if too ripe.
  • Corn:  Plump and firm to the touch. The ears will be completely filled out and the end of the ear will be rounded, rather than pointy.
  • Cucumbers: Medium to deep green and will feel hard. If a cucumber is soft, chances are it doesn’t have much shelf life left (but okay if using for today’s meal).
  • Eggplant:  Will be heavy and firm.  The skin should be smooth, shiny, and wrinkle free with a deep rich plum color.
  • Green Beans: Should be firm, crisp, and show no visible bulges.  Any bulges shown means that a green bean is too ripe.
  • Lettuce: Look for clean crisp leaves with a healthy color. Wilted leaves are a sign the lettuce is going bad.  
  • Peppers:  Should be firm to the touch and have smooth skin. They will feel thick and have a bright, shiny coloring.
  • Tomatoes: Red or orange in color when ripe and are softer to the touch (they start out green with a firmer feel). Don’t count the green ones out, Fried Green Tomatoes make a delicious appetizer!  
  • Yellow Squash:  Will feel heavy, firm, and best chosen when they are 4 inches long.  You want to look for bright, healthy skin as opposed to dull skin with blemishes.
  • Zucchini: Should have a uniform green coloring throughout and be firm to the touch.  If soft, they can be used for zucchini bread!


Download your own Fresh Veggie Guide

Farmers market fresh veggies will add a fresh flavor to your recipes and they’re an easy way to make sure you and your family are eating a healthy, balanced diet.

See you at the farmer’s market!

For my loving Grandparents.  Thank you for being so sweet to me.  I miss you both everyday.
Victor S. Holleman (1926-2005)
Joy P. Holleman (1929-2014)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *