Summer Berries
Blueberries, Blackberries & Strawberries

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Article by Linda Stradley of What's Cooking America.


When buying any type of berries, shop with your nose. Always pick the plumpest and most fragrant berries. They should be firm, bright, and fresh looking with no mold or bruises. If possible, buy locally grown berries. They're likely to be sweeter and juicier than those that are bred for shipment.

Select berries that are in dry, unstained containers. (Stained containers may indicate over soft berries that are not freshly picked.) Mold on berries spreads quickly. Never leave a moldy berry next to a good one.

Do not wash or hull berries until you're ready to use them, and refrigerate unwashed berries as soon as possible.

Store them in a colander in the refrigerator. This allows the cold air to circulate around them.

Tip: Remove berries from refrigerator one to two hours before serving. Berries are at their fullest flavor at room temperature.
 


Blueberries

blue

Learn more about Blueberry Cooking Hints, Tips, and Information and also the Health Benefits of Blueberries.


Did You Know?
 

Wild bears will eat nothing except the succulent, juicy blueberries when they are in season. It has been documented that they will travel, with an empty stomach, from ten to fifteen miles per day to sniff out a blueberry patch.

July was proclaimed National Blueberry Month by the United States Department of Agriculture on May 8th, 1999. Blueberries are grown in 35 states in the US, and the United States produces over 90% of all of the blueberries in the world.

The early American Indians valued the wild blueberries. They called them "star berries" because at the blossom end of each berry, the calyx forms a perfect five-pointed star. Their legends tell of a time when children were dying of hunger during a famine and the Great Spirit sent "star berries" to feed them. Early settlers also cherished the fruit as a staple ingredient in foods and medicines. They incorporated the berries into their diets, eating them fresh off the bush and adding them to soups, stews, and many other foods.

North America is the world's leading blueberry producer, accounting for nearly 90% of world production at the present time. Cultivated blueberries are grown in more than 30 states as well as in British Columbia. During the summer blueberries ripen from June through August depending on the variety. July is also known as National Blueberry Month. Take advantage of this delicious berry by freezing some for the winter. Pulling out summer blueberries in the winter to make muffins, pancakes, waffles or pie is a real treat.
 


basket of fresh blueberries
Blueberry Equivalents:

1 pint fresh blueberries = 3/4 pound or  2 1/2 cups blueberries

1 quart = 1-1/2 pounds or 4 cups

1 (10-ounce) package frozen blueberries = 1 1/2 cups blueberries

1 (21-ounce) can of blueberries =  2 1/3 cups

3 pounds fresh blueberries = filling for 1 (9-inch) pie shell


Blueberry Picking Tips:

Blueberries are the easiest fruit to pick and use in your cooking, as there is no peeling, pitting, coring, or cutting needed to use them in your recipes.

Select plump and full blueberries with a light gray-blue color. Blueberries with any hint of red are not fully ripened. Once blueberries are picked, they will not ripen any further.

Once blueberries are picked, do not place the berries, still warm from the sun, in a closed bag or container. Leave your picking container open so moisture doesn't form in the container.
 

Fresh Blueberry Tips:

Refrigerate the blueberries soon after picking to increase the shelf life. If refrigerated, fresh-picked blueberries will keep 10 to 14 days.

Do not wash the blueberries until just before eating or using in your recipes to prevent berries from becoming mushy. Unwashed blueberries will stay fresh for up to two weeks in the refrigerator if kept dry.  


Freezing Blueberries:

Do not wash the blueberries before freezing.

Place dry, unwashed, and unsweetened berries in freezing containers or plastic bags. Seal and freeze. The berries will freeze individually and pour out like marbles.

If you buy the berries in a pint box, simply wrap the box tightly in cellophane to make it airtight, or slip it into a resealable plastic bag (squeeze out as much air as possible). Then freeze.

If you buy the berries in bulk, freeze them on a cookie sheet first and then transfer them into a freezer container. Keep frozen until ready to use.

When using frozen blueberries in your baking, do not thaw them. Always add them frozen so they will not "bleed" in your baked goods.

 



So what do you do with all the blueberries?

4th of July Bursting Blueberry Pie

Baked French Toast with Blueberry Sauce

Baked Squash With Blueberries

Best Blueberry Muffins

Blueberry Coffee Cake

Blueberry French Toast

Zabaglione with Fresh Berries
 



Strawberries

Image courtesy of USDA-ARS Germplasm Repository, Corvallis
 

baskets of fresh strawberries

DID YOU KNOW?

In provincial France, strawberries were regarded as an aphrodisiac. Newlyweds were served always served a cold strawberry soup.

Have you every eaten a double strawberry? Legend says that if you break the strawberry in half and share it with a member of the opposite sex, you will soon fall in love with each other.

Did you know that the American Indians were actually cultivating strawberries in 1643? They crushed the strawberries into a mortar, mixing them with meal to make a strawberry bread.

By the 1800s, commercial strawberries had been cultivated. Strawberries are the leading small fruit crop in the United States today. They are farmed from Florida to Alaska, with the largest strawberry-growing centers located in California, Washington, Oregon, Louisiana, Michigan,and Tennessee.



BUYING STRAWBERRIES:

One pint of fresh strawberries = about 3 1/4 cups whole berries = 2 1/4 cups sliced berries = 1 2/3 cups pureed berries.

Naturally the best strawberries are the ones you pick yourself from your local strawberry fields. In the stores, always choose locally grown strawberries during the harvesting season (they are sweeter and juicier than those that are bred for shipment). When purchasing berries from the grocery store, shop with your nose. Always pick the plumpest and most fragrant berries. They should be firm, bright, and fresh looking with no mold or bruises.

Select berries that are in dry; unstained containers (stained containers may indicate over soft berries that are not freshly picked). Mold on berries spreads quickly. Never leave a moldy berry next to a good one.

Before using, sort through the strawberries and separate the soft ones from the firm, fully ripe berries. Discard any mushy or spoiled berries.

Remove caps from strawberries only after washing. The caps protect the flavor and texture of the fruit. Wash the berries just before you plan to use them. Use as soon as possible; strawberries ripen no further once picked.

TIP:
To keep strawberries from absorbing large quantities of water when washing them, place in a salad spinner to remove excess water.
 

STORING STRAWBERRIES:

Store them in a colander in the refrigerator. This allows the cold air to circulate around them. Do not cover them.

 

 



Now let's eat them!

Amaretto Strawberries

Balsamic Strawberries

Blended Fresh Strawberry Margarita

Boccone Dolce (Sweet Mouthful)

Chilled Strawberry-Mint Soup

Fresh Strawberry Sorbet

Fruit Pizza

Maple Sauce for Strawberries

Simply Strawberries

Spinach Salad With Strawberries

Strawberries Dipped In Chocolate

Strawberries in Lemon-Lavender Syrup

Strawberries Pernod

Strawberries with Champagne and Roses

Strawberry-Lime Crepes

Strawberry Shortcake

Zabaglione with Fresh Berries
 




Blackberries

Image courtesy of USDA-ARS Germplasm Repository, Corvallis

image of blackberriesOne pint fresh blackberries = 1 1/2 to 2 cups blackberries (depending on size).

Select plump, well-colored blackberries. They should not have stem caps attached. If hulls are still attached, the berries are immature and were picked too early. Avoid berries showing any signs of decay.
 

Blackberry Cobbler

Blackberry Cream Pie

Blackberry Pie

Blackberry Jelly

Blackberry Torte

Blackberry Upside-Down Cake

Jim's Blackberry Barbecued Ribs

Poached Chicken Breasts with Blackberry Cabernet Sauce

Zabaglione with Fresh Berries