This is such a wide and varied area, it is near impossible to capture all of the necessary points in one article.
Additionally, there are so many fruits worldwide, this is beyond a mammoth task to undertake. That stated, an overview of the basics is attempted in terms of an outline here.
Fruits are the Hallmark of a Healthy Lifestyle, as far as diet goes. Firstly, in an ideal world, all of your fruits consumed are local and in season. For persons outside of the tropics and subtropical regions, they are not so fortunate to have this luxury.
How Best To Define Fruit What is fruit?
A fruit is a plant source of food, grown mainly on trees( Bell Peppers, cucumbers, zucchinis and tomatoes being some exceptions and are non-sweet fruits) the seed of which often used to grow new trees. Fruits have the characteristics of Internal seed(s)or stone/pit, with an outer external skin, soft( grape, plum, nectarine, peach for example), semi-soft(mango, papaya), hard(watermelon, cantaloupe, kiwi, honeydew, pomegranate, jackfruit, durian, plantain, bananas). Some hard skins are quite edible, especially when fully ripe. Fruits, when fully ripe should be consumed and not before; Unripe fruit a)Offer little to no nutrients available to the body b). Cause stomach upset and other digestive issues as they are near impossible to breakdown by the body, digest and assimilate. The whole purpose of eating for nutritional gain is therefore lost.
Key Pointers On Ripe Fruit:
Some key things to look for in ripe fruits, bearing in mind, they vary from fruit to fruit and even within varieties of the same fruit.
General Characteristics of Ripe Fruit
- ‘Bounciness’ of skin, the skin 'gives', when slight pressure is applied using fingers. This is easier to detect with soft-skinned fruits, but work as well with harder skinned fruits, including avocado.
- Change in color of exterior. Eg. Cherries turn from green to red.
- Fragrance: the fragrance of fruits become more pronounced as they release ethylene in the ripening process, and thus, there is a distinct and noticeable fruit scent emitted at this stage. These features vary from fruit to fruit as well as varieties of the same fruit.
- The skin color often changes to a brighter, vibrant one (this is different from a total color change, say green to red, eg. Star Apples become brighter purple, as red bananas become a brighter red when ripe).
- Exceptions: Some namely exceptions which we may not readily know are: Plantains ~ These are fully ripe and ready to eat( raw) when the skin is black and the inside becomes very soft, Bell Peppers - depending on the type, the fruit may never change from green and fullness of ripeness is gauged by the ease in which it may be plucked from the stalk, zucchinis(botanical fruit/summer squash)are not soft when ready to eat, and the colour becomes darker/deeper/richer, rather than change to another colour.
How To Access Ripe Fruit:
Naturally Ripened Fruit: Naturally ripened fruit these days are a rare commodity.
Many commercial fruit suppliers harvest unripe fruit, for export and/or commercial gain. A chemical or chemicals will then be used to make them appear ripe. To bypass this, seek produce directly from your local farmers who harvest ripe or close to ripe fruits. Eating unripe fruit which only appear ripe is counterproductive in seeking to gain benefits from the fruit ~ both in taste and nutrient quality along with availability.
Sourcing Naturally Ripened Fruits:
Volunteering to assist the farmer to reap his goods/fruits when they are ready is another way to ensure you are getting good quality and tree ripened produce. Offer or ask, it is the only way to know if there is this opportunity to secure high-quality food items from nature. If in a position to be present at the time of produce harvest, the ease with which the stem loosens from the branch and/or how easy it is to peel/open are key indicators of the degree of ripeness of the fruit. Eg. ' Breaking away a banana from the bunch as well as peeling should be effortless when fully ripe. With some banana varieties, this is evidenced by spotty skins, yet firmness of the edible part while retaining their ' white flesh ' and full tastefulness.
Why is this important?
Locally grown, fresh, in season ( preferably organic) fruits are the very best to consume. Nutrients are most readily available from properly ripened fruits. Properly ripened fruits have nutrients at and in their most simple state( simple sugars- fructose and sucrose), this, is in contrast to carbohydrates in unripe fruit, which the body has to first break down to simple sugars, then assimilate ~ thus utilizing more energy and delaying nutrient benefits to the cells and by extrapolation, the entire anatomy.
This also can only occur if the fruit is masticated properly, as ' digestion starts in the buccal cavity' Clearly, it is far easier to chew fully ripe fruit ~ something we need to be ever mindful of at all times.