The Produce Manager
Vito Latilla, co-owner of Manhattan Fruit Exchange in New York City
It doesn’t take much to get Vito Latilla, one of the three brothers who run the Manhattan Fruit Exchange in New York, to start spilling secrets. He can tell you how to pick out a persimmon (they’re at their sweetest “when they look like they’re ready for the garbage”), iceberg lettuce (“it should be heavy and tight, like a baseball”), or broccoli (“the buds on top have to be closed really tight”). He’s also not shy about explaining how some produce grocers try to trick their customers: “If you see a head of escarole with a couple of leaves missing, it means it was going bad and they tried to clean it up and make it look presentable.”
Be a Produce Pro:
-Tomatoes sold out of season are usually treated with a gas called ethylene, which helps them get that red, ripe appearance. Opt for tomatoes on the vine.
-Smelling produce for freshness is a myth. Most grocery stores keep fruit and vegetables chilled; unless it’s obviously rotting, it won’t have a distinct odor.
-Don’t go and bite into an apple, but strawberries and blueberries should be sampled. If your grocer complains, take your business elsewhere.
-Avoid produce from South America. It’s traveled too far. The peaches may look and smell like peaches, but they sure don’t taste like peaches.