So, what are more specific things to look for when buying fresh fruit? These are the main things I look for when choosing fruit by category:
Citrus Fruits - This includes lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruits, etc. I love it when my citrus fruits are juicy and just the right balance of sweet and sour. When I feel the outside of a citrus fruit I am assessing for that gentle “bounce back” that it can give. Try it for yourself and see if you notice it. When you gently squeeze a lemon, lime, orange, or grapefruit it can either be hard, soft (to where you can squeeze it but there is no bounce back), or it can have a “spring-like effect” where you gently squeeze it and you can feel it give a little then it gently pushes your fingers back again. It’s a hard feeling to describe, so just try to for yourself a few times. When I feel a citrus fruit that is hard, I am not always sure how juicy it will be - sometimes it turns out just fine, other times not so well. When it’s extremely soft sometimes the taste has been fine, other times it has tasted a little off and over-ripe. Whenever I get that nice “bounce back” I can 99% of the time know that it is going to be delicious.
Berries - This goes for raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, huckleberries, and just about every other berry not mentioned here. Get them when they are rich with color! That incredible deep red, blue, purple, etc. Color on its own can be somewhat deceiving though so if you are able to, feel the berries too. They should be firm to semi-soft. If they are really hard then they are not fully ripe yet and will be very sour or not have much flavor at all. If they are too soft then they might be too sweet and taste a bit fermented - though they can make some good jams and be used in other baking recipes. Smell them too if you can! When berries are ripe, especially strawberries, they will smell amazingly sweet.
Stone fruits - Stone fruits are plums, peaches, nectaries, cherries, apricots, and mangoes to give a few examples. My favorite time to eat stone fruits are when they are just the right balance of soft and firm. I know, very contradictory! Sort of like the citrus fruits but without the thick outer peel, you can feel a subtle “bounce back” when you gently squeeze them. If they are very firm they will most likely be sour and not very juicy. If you like fruits that way then go for it! When they are super squishy then they can be very sweet and sometimes grainy tasting on the inside which I don’t like either. So, look for that soft “bounce-back” when you squeeze them gently. Most of these fruits also smell nice and sweet when they are ripe so don’t forget to smell them!
Avocados - What I look for when buying avocados are similar to the other stone fruits I just mentioned. I like them when they are semi-soft. So, give them a gentle squeeze and see if you can get it to give just a little. If they are rock hard then they are not ripe yet. If they are really squishy and have a lot of brown spots on them then they are probably over-ripe. When they are over-ripe they can still taste fine, but you might want to cut away some of the brown spots. Once avocados are ripe, they can start getting those brown spots quite fast so don’t wait too long to eat them.
Figs - I think figs taste the best when they are on the soft side. So, like the other fruits, give it a gentle squeeze. If they are hard then they will not be very sweet and juicy. If they start looking withered then they are not going to be as tasty either. So look for a taut outer skin, but a softer inside. Figs will also smell sweet when they are ripe.
Pears - I love eating pears when they are just turning soft (but not too soft). Hard pears can taste grainy and not have as much flavor and juice. When they start to get a lot of brown spots they can tend to taste fermented and too sweet. So again, give it a gentle squeeze and smell them to see if there is a sweet aroma.
Apples - It can be hard to determine what apples will taste good or not. This is partly because there are so many different varieties and flavors. Some are more tart than others. Some more crisp than others. And some are better for cooking than others. So, do some research and try them out for yourself! From a personal preference, I like apples that are a balance between sweet and sour. I really like them to be crisp though. Some apple varieties can be very grainy when you bite into them and I generally avoid those. And, yes, while some apple varieties are better for cooking, I have cooked many different varieties when they started getting over-ripe and they tasted just fine!