In Season: Berries

The time is NOW! Berries are available now through the beginning of fall. If you are growing a berry bush, i.e. raspberries or blackberries, you might have seen them already on your vines. But peak time does vary depending on the berry. Strawberries and blueberries are at their peak now, while blackberries and raspberries will be at their peak in August going into the fall.

These fruits are great raw or cooked, especially as a pie. Among the first people to appreciate these fruits were Native Americans, who ate them, cooked them, dried them for adding to winter soups and stews, and even used them as medicines, dyes, and food preservatives.

They are full of vitamin C, potassium, and fiber. Did you know that strawberries contain 60 percent more vitamin C by weight than grapefruit and 8 percent more vitamin C than oranges? But the bigger benefit, is the phytochemical (aka plant compounds) that act as an antioxidant against heart disease, cancer, aging, and can improve brain function. Current research is no longer wondering if these benefits are for real, but are now researching to what extent that they are beneficial. Blueberries are the biggest contributor of these magnificent benefits in the form of resveratol. It is the bluish skins of the blueberry that contain this compound.

When you are shopping for berries, they all should be plump, dry, firm, well shaped and uniformly colored. Check the package – don’t purchase berries that are withered, crushed, or moldy. Except for strawberries, none should have caps or stems attached. The caps on strawberries should look fresh and green.  Keep in mind that organic is best.  The pesticides do penetrate the outside of the berries fairly readily.  You can see one of my previous posts on strawberries and pesticides in California.

Unfortunately, they are the most perishable fruit. They can turn soft, mushy, and moldy within 24 hours. Storage time can vary, but most berries should be kept for no longer than two days. Raspberries, the most fragile of all, should be used within a day of purchase.

You can sort through the berries and remove overripe and smashed fruit. Spread them out on a shallow plate or pan and cover with paper towels and then with plastic wrap.

Fortunately, berries freeze well. For raspberries, strawberries, and blackberries, wash and drain them thoroughly (very important, so they don’t form ice crystals), then spread them out in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Place the berries in the freezer until they are solidly frozen, and then transfer them to a heavy plastic bag. They’ll keep for ten months to a year. Follow the same procedure for blueberries, but do not wash them prior to freezing. These will make great smoothies in the winter. The taste is so wonderful that you would have thought it was summer.

What an unique recipe strawberries? The Wall Street Journal shared a strawberry soup recipe along with other berry-inspired dishes.

Strawberry Soup With Mint and Crème Fraîche

Chef Harrison Keevil of Brookville Restaurant in Charlottesville, Va. shared this recipe.
“This soup changes from bite to bite. It goes from sweet to savory and back,” he said. Strawberries are the main ingredient, so use the best ones you can find.

Hands-On Time: 20 minutes Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes Serves: 4 to 6 as an appetizer

Justin Walker for The Wall Street Journal, Food Styling by Karen Evans, Prop Styling by DSM

1½ pounds (about 5 cups) strawberries, hulled
¼ cup good-quality white-wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
¼ cup lightly packed mint leaves, cut into chiffonade
Crème fraîche, for garnish

What To Do
1. Combine strawberries, vinegar, sugar and salt in a bowl. Refrigerate and let macerate 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes or so.
2. Purée strawberries, vinegar, sugar and salt in a blender. Strain if desired for a seedless soup, but it isn’t necessary.
3. Serve garnished with mint and a dollop of crème fraîche.

About Sharon M., MS RD

As a registered dietitian and a master gardener, I know the healing power of food. Nothing has given me more satisfaction than growing my own food. I have experience working in the public health field, including school districts. I have worked with pregnant moms, children, diabetics, and bariatric patients. I emphasis a plant-based, whole food diet. Yet, I appreciate the movement of eating sustainably, while hoping folks appreciate the bean as a source of protein. "To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art." - Francois de La Rochefoucauld "Feeding is going well if both you and yor child are having a good time." -Ellyn Satter
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