Signs of Acceptable and Unacceptable Quality in Fresh Fruits

I’ve seen shoppers shake, tap, and squeeze their intended fruit purchases; but which is really best way? How do you decide if fruit is fresh?

For fruits, taste is the best test of quality. Many people rely on appearance as an indication of quality, but this standard  may not, in all respects, be dependable. Blemishes can be present even though the flavor and quality are unimpaired.

Fresh produce must be handled with extreme care because of it’s perish-ability. Pinching, squeezing, or unnecessary handling upon purchase will bruise fruits and vegetables, leading to premature spoilage.

Fruits and vegetables show spoilage in a variety of ways. The list below consists of signs of freshness and spoilage of common fruit.


Good Quality: Firmness; crispness; bright color

Bad Quality, Spoilage: Softness; bruises. (Irregularly shaped brown or tan areas do not usually affect quality)


Good Quality: Bright, uniform color, plumpness

Bad Quality, Spoilage: Dull color, shriveled appearance


Good Quality: Firmness; brightness of color

Bad Quality, Spoilage: Grayish or dull appearance (indicates exposure to cold and inability to ripen properly)


Good Quality: Dark blue color with silvery bottom

Bad Quality, Spoilage: Moist berries

Cantaloupes (Muskmelons) 

Good Quality: Stem should be gone; netting or veining should be course; skin should be yellow-gray or pale yellow

Bad Quality, Spoilage: Bright Yellow color; mold; large bruises


Good Quality: Very dark color, plumpness

Bad Quality, Spoilage: Dry stems; soft flesh; gray mold


Good Quality: Plumpness; firmness. Ripe cranberries should bounce

Bad Quality, Spoilage: Leaky berries


Good Quality: Should be heavy for its size

Bad Quality, Spoilage: Soft areas; dull color


Good Quality: Should be firmly attached to stems. Bright color and plumpness are good signs

Bad Quality, Spoilage: Soft areas; dull color

Honeydew Melon

Good Quality: Soft skin; faint aroma; yellowish white to creamy rind color 

Bad Quality, Spoilage: White or greenish color; bruises or water soaked areas; cuts or punctures in rind


Good Quality: Firmness; heaviness. Should have rich yellow color

Bad Quality, Spoilage: Dull color; shriveled skin


Good Quality: Glossy skin; heavy weight

Bad Quality, Spoilage: Dry skin; molds


Good Quality: Firmness; heaviness; bright color

Bad Quality, Spoilage: Dry skin, spongy texture; blue mold


Good Quality: Slightly soft flesh

Bad Quality, Spoilage: A pale tan spot (indicates beginning of decay); very hard or very soft flesh

Good Quality: Firmness

Bad Quality, Spoilage: Dull skin; shriveling; spots on the sides



Good Quality: “Spike” at top should separate easily from flesh

Bad Quality, Spoilage: Mold; large bruises; unpleasant odor; brown leaves



Good Quality: Fairly firm to slightly soft flesh

Bad Quality, Spoilage: Leaking; brownish discoloration

 Raspberries, Boysenberries

Good Quality: Stem caps should be absent; flesh should be plump and tender

Bad Quality, Spoilage: Mushiness; wet spots on containers (sign of possible decay of berries)


Good Quality: Stem cap should be attached; berries should have rich red color

Bad Quality, Spoilage: Gray mold; large uncolored areas


Good Quality: Bright orange or deep yellow color; loose skin

Bad Quality, Spoilage: Punctured skin; mold



Good Quality: Smooth surface; creamy underside; bright

Bad Quality, Spoilage: Stringy or mealy flesh (spoilage difficult to see on the outside)

Source: “Signs of Acceptable and Unacceptable Quality in Fresh Fruits.” Applied Food Service Sanitation. The Educational Foundation of the National Restaurant Association. 1995

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