Season changes equal alteration in food choices

As cold winter winds give way to warm spring breezes, meals of thick soups and hearty gravies turn into fresh salads and fruits and vegetables.

So how does one go about selecting the perfect produce?

Willie McNeil, produce manager at Alberton’s, said that generally shoppers should look for good color and firmness.

“It all depends on what you’re looking for,” he said. “With squash look for a deep yellow. It shouldn’t be too large because it won’t be tender.”

McNeil said that many consumers make the mistake of not thoroughly checking packaged produce.

He also said that some fruits remain popular year-round, like apples and citrus fruits.

But as spring and summer approach, consumers start purchasing different items.

“People cook more vegetables in the winter,” McNeil said.

“But now customers are buying more items to make salads.”

McNeil added that he is seeing more and more people buying imported fruits.

Kara Safford, a freshman elementary education student from Herndon, Va., agrees that people change what they buy from season to season.

“In the winter is when I tend to buy more vegetables,” she said.

“In the summer I buy watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew and strawberries.”

Safford said she considers herself a smart produce consumer because she knows what to look for.

She said that because sprays and pesticides are a concern of hers, she buys produce at farmer’s markets and gourmet stores instead of grocery stores.

McNeil said that sprays and pesticides do not pose health risks to consumers.

Ilandus Swinson, 21, a senior political science student from Washington, said he buys a variety of produce, from apples to asparagus and oranges to onions.

He said that because he has a set diet, his produce selections tend to stay the same from season to season.

“I’m a health-conscious eater,” he said.

“I like grapefruit, watermelon, grapes, squash, corn and celery.”

Swinson said he looks for a bright color and a deep green in vegetables.

He said that while growing up, he watched his mother buy produce for the family and learned what to look for.

“The outside of the fruit will tell the story of what’s going on inside,” he said.

“I look for bright color. It shouldn’t be dull. If it looks all right on the outside, nine times out of 10, it’s O.K. to eat.”