How to Tell if You Should Buy from Roadside Fruit Stands

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Fruit Stands: Good Prices, but What about Quality?

Fruit stand season is here, and with prices much better than those at the grocery store, more and more people are getting their fruit fix at roadside stands. However, not all stands are alike. Here’s what you need to know.

Organization and Overall Cleanliness

A good fruit stand should appear organized, with nothing lying about willy-nilly. All products should be stored in bins or baskets according to type. For example, unless something is being marketed as a “berry mix”, strawberries and blueberries shouldn’t be mixed with each other.

The fruit stand should also appear clean and free of debris. With the exception of pesticide-free and organic produce, which may have a few isolated insects under leaves, products should not have visible bugs. There should also be no signs of vermin, such as small, uniform pellets under the tables (these are the droppings of rodents such as mice and rats).

High Quality Fruit

A good fruit stand should be selling high-quality fruit. The majority of the products on display should not show visible bruising. According to the United States Food and Drug Administration, bruised produce is more likely to harbor dangerous organisms (2010). Fruit should also be the color it’s supposed to be. For example, strawberries should be bright red, oranges should not show any green.

Also, the majority of the fruit at a fruit stand should show non-visual indications of quality. Fruits should feel heavier than they look like they should be (which is an indication that they possess a lot of juice and little fibrous matter), and should have a distinct and pleasant smell. Any sour odors, or those reminiscent of cleaning products, are indications of rot.

A Helpful, Knowledgeable Proprietor

Good fruit stands are staffed by helpful people. Fruit stand owners are small-business owners, and they depend for their livelihood on the goodwill and loyalty of their customers. Thus they need to be friendly, welcoming, open to questions, and able to speak the same language as the majority of their customers.

Fruit stand owners should also be knowledgeable. They should be aware of, and compliant with, the licensing requirements of the state. Some states (such as Colorado) do not require vendors of whole, uncut fruits to comply with laws such as the Retail Food Protection Act, but do require this of those selling cooked foods, such as roasted chilies. Also, the fruit stand owner should know where the food comes from, and under what conditions it was grown.

References

Benepe, C. (2001). Food Safety for Farmer’s Market Vendors. University of Colorado Extension. Retrived 15 May, 2010 from https://www.ext.colostate.edu/safefood/farmmkt/food_safety_vendors.pdf

United States Food and Drug Administration. (4 April 2010). Safe Handling of Raw Produce and Fresh-Squeezed Fruit and Vegetable Juices. FDA. Retrieved 10 May 2010 from https://www.fda.gov/Food/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/ucm114299