@rclemons, an article on fruit and veggies' freshness is a great "hot potato" for you! Please note that where I live in Rutherglen VIC we have no green grocers - only supermarkets, Farmer's Markets, road-side stalls and our backyards.
Q 1. Fruit/Veg from major supermarket chains work hard to be seen to be as fresh as the small grocers and grower's markets, and in many areas it works well. But failures do occur in the supermarket:
- fruit that becomes over-ripened within hours or days of purchase (Coles sometimes), such as stone fruits, strawberries, pears
- buying fruit and vegetables out of season
- supermarkets purchasing massive quantities and holding in cold-storage, then releasing onto the market as "fresh" - not!
Q 2. Hardest to judge quality/ripeness/freshness
- oranges and celery - I can judge freshness/ripeness but not whether it might be dry inside (am I buying out of season?);
- ripe pineapple halves - often moved to the clearance table before they are ripe!
- avocadoes - easy to distinguish between rock hard and soft, but not easy to determine how ripe;
- potatoes - sold in coloured bags which mask freshness as well as bumps and cuts, quite often several in the bag have been affected to the point where I've cut most of the potato off!
Why is so hard to buy loose fruit or veggies lately? Aldi have come on board recently with pre-packaged fruits and vegetables at the expense of buying loose product at the reduced prices. My local Safeway (in a nearby town) has pre-packaging down to an art-form and as a result I won't buy grapes from there - who are they to assume that I want a kilo of grapes? You have to buy the pack size as is or leave without them as there's a sticker over the ziplock preventing opening. In many supermarkets, pre-packaging "for freshness" has gone mad. This includes a range of lettuces, spring onions, sweetcorn, herbs, sweet potato, apples, peaches, nectarines, cherries and more.