When berry season begins in earnest, I feel like I’ve won the culinary lottery. Berries – strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries – are the perfect adornment for a bowl of oatmeal and make excellent afternoon snacks, but do you know how to handle this summertime windfall?
Bonus: Keep your eyes peeled for less common varieties: currants, mulberries, gooseberries or huckleberries, and handle them with the same care you use with other berry season standbys.
Pick the Best
- Berries should be uniformly and richly colored.
- Don’t worry about the hazy white “bloom” on blueberries – that’s a normal bloom berries form as a protective shield from the sun.
- Avoid berries with brown patches or discoloring, which could indicate under-ripe or damaged berries.
- Size doesn’t really affect the flavor profile of the berries, though tiny berries can be more concentrated in flavor.
- Wild berries tend to be much smaller than their cultivated counterparts.
- Berries should be plump and firm.
- If berries are wrinkled or shrunken, they may be drying out and past their prime.
- Berries should be dry and intact – if the berry carton is wet or has splotches of juice on the sides, some of the berries are likely overripe and could be moldy.
- A good test is to give the container a gentle shake – the berries should move freely in the package.
Store and Savor
- Store unwashed berries in the refrigerator.
- Berries are delicate, so consume them as soon as possible after purchase; blueberries can last up to a week.
- Only wash berries just before you plan to use them.
- To freeze berries for smoothies or baked good down the road, allow gently washed berries to dry completely (don’t forget to hull the strawberries first). Next, place the berries in a single layer on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet and freeze until firm. Store frozen berries in resealable plastic freezer bags.
- Berries can be flavorful additions to sweet and savory dishes alike.
- Dice strawberries, then toss with lime juice and flecks of hot peppers for a spirited summer salsa.
- Skewer blueberries along with other seasonal darlings like cantaloupe, pitted cherries and peaches for fun poolside snack.
- Cap all your fingertips with upturned raspberries and have a snack on the go – but you’ll want more than that, so fold whole raspberries into your favorites pudding for a bright warm-weather dessert.
- Quickly simmer blackberries with a splash of sweet wine, then serve over grilled chicken or fish.
Do you have any great berry season tips? Please share your thoughts and suggestions in the comments section below.