by Buck Reed
A Berry Summer
As I have written before, the summer brings an abundance of wonderful things to our table. We have grilled foods from our backyard, seafood from the oceans, and flowers for our centerpieces. But we should not overlook the wonderful fruits that we find in abundance at this time of year, not the least of which are the berries we are provided.
According to botanists, berries are the fruits produced by the ovary of a single flower of a plant. They are small, pulpy, and, most times, edible without a stone or a pit. Yet, they do contain more than a few seeds that are edible. Berries are full of nutritional value, including vitamin C, antioxidants, other vitamins and minerals, and are high in fiber—all packed in a low-calorie vessel. The best part is that they are plentiful this time of year; when you go to the market, it is well worth your time to look through the produce aisle for anything on sale.
It is best to keep berries unwashed in the container you bought them in and place in the refrigerator. When ready to use, give them a quick rinse and use as needed. If you want to freeze them, give them a rinse and Individually Quick Freeze (IQF) them by spreading the berries out on a sheet pan in a single layer, then place in the freezer until frozen. Remove to a plastic bag and return to freezer until ready to use. Once purchased, plan on using or freezing them as soon as possible, as they can spoil quickly.
In terms of berries, I am talking about the Big 4: strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries. These are the ones available this time of year, and the ones that come to mind when we think of berries. Of course, we have the standby uses that everyone knows like pies, crisps, and cobblers, which we all know and enjoy this time of year. And we can always serve them with our morning cereal or add them to pancake batter to add a bit of decadence to our breakfast. But let’s look at a few more ideas the culinary world might offer us.
Salads are a great way to add berries to our plate. Sliced strawberries garnished on our salad greens with a bit of balsamic vinaigrette is refreshing and delicious at any barbeque as a side dish. A quick Google search of most any berries and salad will give you more than a few options. Pureed raspberries are a great addition to a vinaigrette and could easily become a family favorite.
Need a refreshing drink for a barbeque? Try sangria! I am not a doctor or scientist, but I can make an argument that with enough fruit, this alcoholic beverage might actually help you stay more hydrated than most others. I am pretty sure I would lose that argument, but, perhaps, you can take some comfort over the idea you are getting nutritional value as you enjoy your drink.
Finding good berries at a reasonable price this time of year is almost as easy as finding something to do with them. This is the time to enjoy the fruits of summer!