College life means a lot of freedom. If you want to go order a pizza at three in the morning, nobody but a disgruntled delivery guy will fault you for it.

It also comes with a lot of independence and responsibility. You have to juggle those bills that your mom used to handle, allot your time between casually procrastinating and stressfully procrastinating, and eventually find out that the fridge doesn’t actually refill itself.

One of the hazards of college life is ignorance. I’m not a statistician but I’m completely, totally, and utterly sure that 3 of 4 students can’t tell a ripe papaya from an unripe one. So, here is a compilation of the telltale signs of a ripe fruit to guide you through your next trip to the grocery store.

1. Strawberries


Photo by Cherie Mak

One way to tell that this seed-speckled fruit is ripe is by looking at its colour. A thoroughly red strawberry is the best candidate for those looking to satisfy their craving for a saccharine snack while keeping the calories minimal. A little white creeping down from the stem is a red-flag and the appearance of green is a blaring alarm. Either way, heed the warnings.

Another indicator of ripeness in strawberries is the smell. If bringing the box of strawberries to your nose incites an assault to your senses—usually with the distinct smell of fermentation or mould—then it’s best to gently put the carton down and walk away, no harm done.

2. Mangos


Photo by Cherie Mak

Personally, sour mangos are one of the banes of my existence. When a mango is ripe, it’s heavenly, but when it’s not, the sourness is overbearing.

Again, easy indicators are colour and smell. The mangos we see at our local grocery store or farmer’s market are either the red-green variety or the yellow-orange variety. With these mangos, red and orange are the respective colours you should be seeing on a ripe specimen. The smell of the mango should be distinctly sweet, especially at the stem.

You can also tell how ripe a mango is by its firmness. The softer the mango is, the riper it is. However, if it’s practically mush, it’s not a safe bet. The best time is when it’s just beginning to soften.

3. Watermelon


Photo by Cherie Mak

I have been personally affected by bland watermelon. Considering the size of this gargantuan fruit, it can be a real downer to be stuck with, especially as they don’t ripen once they’re picked.

The first step is to look for a dark green watermelon, and seek out what is called the ground spot—this is a yellow spot on one side of the watermelon where it sat as it grew. If this spot is white or green, then the watermelon isn’t ripe.

Weight is also important. A ripe watermelon will always be heavier.

If you see any odd concentration of mottled parts on the watermelon, that might be an indicator of where insects have attempted to drive through the rind to access the sweet flesh of the fruit.

The last, and possibly most well-known trick to picking watermelon, is the knocking trick. Knocking on a ripe watermelon should produce a hollow sound versus a dull sound.

4. Pineapples


Photo by Cherie Mak

Smell, smell, smell. The sure indicator of a ripe pineapple is the sweetness it emits when you take a whiff of the hind of the pineapple—not the leafy area. However, be aware that an overly ripe pineapple will smell of fermentation–almost a sickly sweet with an alcoholic edge to it. Avoid those ones.

When you look at the appearance of the pineapple, be wary of the ones that have faults in its exterior, like wrinkles, cracks, mould, browning, and dying leaves.

Often, a good pineapple will exhibit a golden yellow colour with healthy green leaves, but don’t shoot down greener pineapples–although they may often not be as ripe as the golden yellow ones. If it still smells ripe, then there’s a good chance it is.

A ripe pineapple will also be firm, but you should be able to leave a slight impression on its surface if you press down on it. You’ll know you’ve picked the right one as long as your finger doesn’t puncture through. That’s just a tad gross.

5. Papayas


Photo by Cherie Mak

I’m willing to bet a majority of us—or at least, the girls—have heard that this fruit helps breasts grow. Whether that’s true or not, I’ll leave up to you.

Choosing a ripe papaya is not exactly rocket science. Like with some of the other fruits on this list, the stem area is where the scent gives off whether it is ripe or not. It will be moderately sweet smelling, and not overpoweringly sweet, nor will it have no scent.

By the time it’s ripe, a papaya should be predominantly yellow-ish orange. If the papaya is still green, you’ll need to give it a few days before it’s ready to eat.

Firmness is also important, a slight squeeze of the fruit and it should give a little—not too much. Avoid squeezing too hard as these bad boys bruise easily.

 6. Avocados


Photo by Cherie Mak

So, 2014 was the year of the avocado to foodies, it seems. Time to hop onto the bandwagon for 2015.

If you hope to open up an avocado and be met with a beautiful green, then check out the base of the avocado and take note of the colour underneath the little button. If it’s green, then you’ve found the one. If it’s brown, then avoid it because you’re bound to see a brown mess of an avocado.

When pressing down on an avocado, do it where the stem is. If it gives a little, it’s ripe. You only have to do this around the stem area—this saves people from buying avocados only to open it up and find thumb-shaped bruising all over the body of the fruit. Yes, it’s a fruit.

A darker avocado is generally also riper than the lighter ones.

7. Eggplants


Photo by Cherie Mak

This oblong fruit—yes, it’s also a fruit—follows a slightly different touch-based method of determining ripeness. When gently pressed, a ripe eggplant should give a little but spring back—like memory foam. If the indentation remains, it’s overripe.

Avoid blemishes on its surface like brown spots, and be sure to be on the lookout for those glossy specimens rather than the dull ones.

The best bet for picking eggplants is to seek out the smaller ones because younger ones tend to be sweeter. However, when comparing with similar sizes, pick the eggplant that is heavier. The lighter ones might have past their prime.

8. Tomatoes


Photo by Cherie Mak

With tomatoes, the prettier the better. Its skin should be shiny and dark spots should be absent, as dark spots can be an indicator of rotten tomato.

When you squeeze the tomato, it should feel slightly firm. If there are softened areas on the tomato, then it might be already rotten. When you hold the tomato, it should feel heavy and dense for its size.

Also if you sniff the tomato, it should smell sweet and earthy. The sweeter it smells, the more flavourful it tastes.

Now go, my children, and prowl the grounds of the grocery store for some snacking or dinner foods. Proper ones this time, and not bland tasting imposters of the real deal.

If fruits are right up your alley, check these out: