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Berries 101: Choosing the Best

Make the most of summer's bounty with our essential berry guide on picking, storing and preparation.

Berries

Updated March 30, 2018

Berries

 

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.

Traditional Strawberry Shortcake

Get the Recipe: Traditional Strawberry Shortcake

Pick the Best

Color

  • 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

  • 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.

Shape

  • Berries should be plump and firm.
  • If berries are wrinkled or shrunken, they may be drying out and past their prime.

Anything Else?

  • 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.

Get the Recipe: Lemonade Ice with Whipped Yogurt

Store and Savor

Storage

  • 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.

Preparation

  • 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.
  • Still hungry? Check out our collections of raspberry and strawberry recipes for more inspiration. 

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