Many people feel the need to excercise some control over the quality of the food they buy. They may pick through the stack of hundreds of oranges to find the densest one, or perhaps they refuse to buy any produce except certified organic.
The problem with any purely visual, or visual/kinestetic/emotional assay of produce, is that it fails to give insight in the nutrient-density of the particular piece in question, and says little about the way the produce was raised.
Thankfully, there is a quick, easy, and reliable way to test the quality of the produce you buy. All that's needed is the proper tool, a drop or two of the juice from the produce, and a source of light. Conscientous growers and quality control in processing all use this simple method, though they rarely disclose to the "consumer" their findings. The good news is, for a minimal investment, you can get started being your own Quality Control. You can make informed buying decisions that reward quality (and reward you with quality, nutritious food).
The tool you need to get started today, testing the quality of your food, is called a refractometer. If you haven't heard of it before, don't sweat it, it's easy to understand, and even easier to use.
How does it work?
The refractometer works by allowing you to see the refractive index of the sap you are testing. Essentially, depending on the concentration of sugars (or other solids), a fluid will refract light to a certain pre-determined degree. By comparing the tested levels to reference levels for Poor, Average, Good, or Excellent levels for that particular produce, you can see immediately what quality you hold in your hands.
This is a bona-fide, proven method for testing produce quality, and it takes less than 5 minutes. The information you gain from it is extremely empowering. Loaded with the knowledge of actual quality, you become immune to things like staging, placement, signs, labels, and even certification proclamations that have nothing to do with quality, and everything to do with getting you to buy and pay more.
By purchasing your produce strictly based on quality, you win.
With the endless options in the supermarket, its very difficult for the average person to discern many things, especially quality. It's easy to get distracted by the attractive way the fruit is stacked, or the glistening lettuce freshly misted. Should you buy the tomatoes with the vine on or off? Field or hothouse? Does it make a difference? Yes, it does. You will quickly see there is a world of difference when you start testing. Hint: Hothouse tomatoes are notoriously low-quality, low-brix, and high nitrate. They are not the best choice for your family if you care about health.