Thursday, June 16, 2011

Fruit Skills

There are many things that you learn in life along the way that become second nature to you.  It’s often not until someone comes along- a college roommate, a boyfriend/girlfriend, a friend, or perhaps a child -  and takes note of it, that you become aware of your knowledge.  It happened recently with my son about typing.  He was watching me type away at my computer when he said, “How did you learn to type that way?” And “Do you think I will ever be that fast at typing?"  I said, “It’s amazing isn’t it? that you don’t know something and then someday you learn it and then you know it for the rest of your life!  It even becomes second nature!"  I told him that I owe my ability to type to Ms. Banks at West High School, for teaching me this valuable skill.  My sister and I believe it was the single most important thing we learned in high school.  

I realized a while back that a skill I had taken for granted that my mom taught me is selecting and preparing fruit. When I go to the grocery, I start with the produce section (my favorite spot in the store). If I pick up a cantaloupe, I put it to my nose to see if it is ripe.  I pull back a little of the corn husk on an ear of corn to see if the corn is in good shape.  It’s fun to shop with my kids who now thump the watermelon or look for spots on the quart of strawberries. 

So, since it is the season for wonderful fresh fruit, I thought I would pass along some tips that I've learned about the selecting and the cutting of a few seasonal fruits.  These may be second nature to you, but if not, hopefully these tips will come in handy. 

Cantaloupes are a little tricky to select because the ripeness is not very obvious. You want to avoid one with soft, mushy places. The outside should be a little able to “give” when held in your palm and gently pressed.  You want to look for melons that are golden in color, not green.  The other clue is the belly button. Smell this spot.  Oddly, the smell you are going for is not a good smell or even a cantaloupe smell, but rather a kind of sweet, musky scent.  If there is no smell at all it is probably not ripe or flavorful.
[Watch the price.  Sometimes they are priced by the pound and other times by the piece.  If by the piece, I want to find the biggest one, that also meets my aforementioned standards, so I get the most for my money!]
Using a large knife with a pointed tip, slice the fruit in half.

Cutting the cantaloupe.

Using a large spoon, scoop out the seeds from the inside and discard.
Run your knife along the bottom of the fruit between the orange and green. Then slice longways and serve as long slivers.

or mustaches!
or cube it for a salad for easier eating. 
The outside of watermelons is pretty consistent.  I give it a good look all over to make sure there are no bad spots, give it a good thump and listen for a thud- a hollow sound- to make sure it’s full of juice and then take it home!  I find that watermelon is much easier to store once cut up (as it is so large and cumbersome), but as soon as you cut it up, it loses some life expectancy.  Sometimes I slice it in ½ and cut up one ½ to keep in a container (or eat immediately) and leave the other ½ intact. 
Here’s how I cut it.
Using a large knife with a pointed tip, slice the fruit in half and then in quarters

Run your knife along the bottom of the fruit - between the red and the white

You can slice it anyway you like, large wedges, slivers, long pieces, cubes, you can get really fancy and use a melon baller and scoop it out into balls! 

My kids love when I cut it with  “handles” (with the rind still on).  There are pros and cons to this.  The pros are that it requires no silverware, it’s less messy and it's fun.  The cons are that it takes up lots of room on your plate,  lots of room in your container or dish and you have to deal with the left-over “handles” once they have been eaten.


Similar to cantaloupes, the mango's outside is not always telling.  Some great tasting, ripe mangoes are yellow, some are red, orange, or green.  The trick to selecting is placing it in the palm of your hand and gently squeezing it to see if it "gives" a little. It should not be soft, nor should it be hard. You can, however, buy ones that are harder and they will ripen at home.

Then the slicing.  The challenge is the long-shaped pit that is fiberously connected to the meat of the fruit.  It is trickier than a peach or plum in that way.  I have found that the key is to run your knife alongside the middle, just up a bit and let your knife guide you in knowing where the pit is.  Slice horizontally above the pit.

Using a large spoon, move around the edge of the fruit between the peeling and the meat to separate the fruit and scoop it out.  
Place on a cutting board and slice in slivers or cubes.
Repeat this on the other side.

 Holding pit, peel the remaining strip of peeling and then carve around pit to get all of the meat you can.

If you are wishing for a recipe to try, I recommend you practice your mango skills with this
Mango Avocado Salsa (and Fish Taco) recipe.....mmmm!


  1. Thank you so much for taking the time to do this! I actually just skipped out on buying some mangoes because I was intimidated by them! How silly!

  2. Mangoes can be intimidating! But they are so yummy and my kids love them so they are worth figuring out. Thanks for the comment. I was hoping this was worth writing about!

  3. Thanks for the help with mangoes! I was making a recipe with them just last night. I'd never bought one before or tried to use at home and it was pretty much a disaster! Your skills would have definitely helped me get more out of my mango. Next time.

  4. Loved this post! I just discovered my love for mangoes in the last year or so and I found a mango-pitting tool that has helped in getting the pit out. I got mine at Bed, Bath and Beyond (with a coupon), but I've seen them at Kroger and Target as well. It looks kind of like an apple corer, but the mango tool doesn't make slices, just slices down around the pit.