A Guide to Summer Berries
It's berry season again! And I couldn't think of anything better than finding a local farm to pick some fresh berries while they're in season. Here we love the idea of farm to table experiences and recipes. Not only do they support local farmers, but they also provide an experience that you can't get by going to the grocery store. Berries may be small, but they have so much potential. Let us share with you some of our very best berry knowledge so you can make the most of the season.
Each variety of berries may look very different, but they all have some common ground when it comes to picking and storing. If you
decide to pick your own berries be sure to bring a container large enough to store all of the berries that you would like to bring home.
A cheap and easy way to do this is by cutting the top ¼ off of a plastic milk carton.
Once you get your berries home it is recommended to use them as soon as possible. If you will be waiting a day or two to use them
store them in the refrigerator in a container where air can reach them and avoid putting them in the crisper, which has a lower humidity
and less air flow than the rest of the refrigerator. Even if you plan on using your berries the same day you pick them it is recommended
that you put them in the refrigerator for an hour or so before you wash them so they have a chance to firm up and are therefore easier to wash. Only wash your berries right before using them (washing them before this increases the likelihood that they will mold).
When she's not working you can catch Beth, our Content Developer, enjoying the afternoon picking fresh strawberries at one
of the local farms.
Strawberries are not only delicious, but also full of antioxidants! They rank third out of all foods and spices, only behind blackberries and walnuts, when it comes to antioxidant capacity. Because of these high antioxidant levels, you should enjoy your strawberries as soon as possible to avoid the risk of losing those precious antioxidants.
Strawberry picking Season begins the end of April in Southern parts of the country and May for most other parts of the United States. When picking berries or choosing some at the grocery store look carefully to make sure your berries are ripe. Ripe berries will be firm, plump and free of mold. They will have a deep red shiny skin and will not have any green or yellow spots on them. Because strawberries do not continue to ripen after they have been picked it is important to stay away from those green and yellow spots because they are likely to be sour.
Second to strawberries when it comes to consumption in the United States are blueberries. Known for their antioxidants and potential health benefits for the nervous system and brain health, these berries have been the focus of numerous studies. One study has found that large amounts of blueberries or blueberry juice on a daily basis accounted for memory improvement especially in older individuals. Blueberries have been shown to have more of a health benefit when eaten alone as opposed to being baked into foods or desserts.
Blueberry picking season ranges from May through September. When choosing blueberries, look for berries that are firm and are uniform in color. If you shake the container the berries should move freely and not stick to the bottom. This would indicate that the berries are soft and either damaged or beginning to mold.
Raspberries have health benefits beyond compare. Scientific testing has shown that raspberries not only have anti-inflammatory properties, but they also reduce oxidative stress which in turn decrease the number of cancer cells. Currently these tests are only being conducted on animals, but it sure wouldn't hurt to have a few extra raspberries with your cereal. Recent research on organic raspberries has shown that there is a significantly higher level of antioxidants in organic raspberries opposed to nonorganic raspberries.
Raspberry picking season is late July through October, which makes it one of the later berry seasons. When picking raspberries make sure they are firm and plump. They should have a full, even color and not be mushy or moldy. When buying raspberries at the store make sure that they are not packed too tightly so they can breathe. If there is a soft, mushy berry in your carton be sure to remove it as soon as you get home.
You may be asking yourself "What's the difference between raspberries (especially black raspberries) and blackberries?" I did the same thing and found a pretty interesting but simple answer. Raspberries and blackberries are both part of the Rubus subgenus (fancy Latin words to describe a flowering plant with fruit). The only real difference between the two is that when picked, the stem of the raspberry does not stay attached and therefore raspberries are hollow inside. Blackberries on the other hand keep the stem attached.
According to recent studies, fresh blackberries were identified as a top cancer fighter. That's one heck of a berry. This also means that if you consume blackberries on a regular basis they may have a positive impact on your health, athletic performance, and disease risk.
Blackberry picking season begins between July and August and ranges until October. When it comes to picking blackberries, they have the same rule of thumb as raspberries. Make sure your berry is plump and a rich dark purple color, not dull or uneven in color. The berries should come off of the bush easily when they are ripe.
Now that you know some of the basics, get out there and pick some berries! It also wouldn't hurt to wear some clothing that you don't care too much about because berry juice stains are hard to wash out.
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