Berries

Berries

Berries are the delicious and often fragile fruits that grow on vines, bushes, and runners. They have many virtues--they're colorful, easy to prepare, good for you, and so delicious that you can serve them for dessert all by themselves. The only downside is that they're often pricey, since it's a Herculean challenge to get them to market before they spoil.


Many don't make it, so check them carefully for mold before putting them in your shopping cart. Berries don't ripen once they're picked, so the deeply colored ones tend to be the sweetest and most flavorful.


When you get them home, store them in the refrigerator and use them as soon as possible. Don't wash them until you're ready to use them, and freeze any that you can't get to right away.


Varieties:


baby kiwifruit
baby kiwifruit
You can eat this tiny kiwifruit hybrid skin and all.
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bilberry
bilberry
This small, tart berry is the European counterpart to the American blueberry. Bilberries are usually made into preserves.
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black currant
black currant
These are too tart to eat out of hand, but they're often used to make syrups, preserves, and the liqueur cassis. Frozen are a good substitute for fresh.
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blackberry
blackberry
These would be excellent berries were it not for their rather large seeds. They're still great for eating out of hand, but cooks often strain out the seeds when making pies and preserves. Select berries that are free of mold, and as black as possible. They arrive in markets in the summer.
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blueberry
blueberry
Blueberries are small and sturdy, so they're perfect for tossing into cakes, muffins, cereal bowls, and fruit salads. Like other berries, they also make good preserves and tarts. Select firm, dark berries that have a whitish bloom on them. Keep them refrigerated and wash them just before you eat them. You can find fresh blueberries in the summer, but frozen blueberries are available year-round and work well in many recipes. Frozen berries get a little mushy after they're defrosted, but they'll work well in many recipes. Canned blueberries also work in pies and baked goods, but drain off the liquid and rinse them first.
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boysenberry
boysenberry
A boysenberry is a cross between a blackberry, a raspberry, and a loganberry. It's more fragile than a blackberry, but it doesn't have the blackberry's conspicuous seeds. Select boysenberries that are dark in color and free of mold.
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Cape gooseberry
Cape gooseberry
Like its relative the tomatillo, the Cape gooseberry is covered with a papery husk. The fruit inside looks a bit like a yellow cherry, and tastes like a sweet tomato. You can eat Cape gooseberries whole, minus the husk, or use them to make very tasty preserves. They're hard to find in the United States; your best bet is a specialty produce market in the spring.
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cloudberry
cloudberry
Both the color and flavor of these Scandinavian berries pale in comparison to the raspberry.
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cranberry
cranberry
These tart berries are traditionally used to makes sauces and garnishes for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. It's best to buy them at their peak in October and November, and freeze any that you don't use right away.
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currant
currant
These berries are too tart for most people to eat out of hand, but they make terrific preserves and garnishes. They come in three colors: red, white, and black. If color's not important, you can use them interchangeably in most recipes, though red and white currants aren't as tart as black. Don't confuse these berries with the dried fruit of the same name that looks like a small raisin. You can sometimes find fresh currants in specialty produce markets in the summer. If not, frozen currants are a good substitute.
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dewberry
dewberry
These are similar to blackberries, only they're smaller.
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elderberry
elderberry
These are too tart for most people to eat out of hand, but they make terrific preserves and wine.
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fraises des bois
fraises des bois
These small, wild strawberries are either white or red, and have a very intense flavor.
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golden raspberry
golden raspberry
This is a blonder, milder version of the red raspberry. Don't confuse it with the Golden Raspberries (Razzies), which are given out to honor each year's worst films and performers.
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gooseberry
gooseberry
These large, tart berries are in season only in June and July, but canned gooseberries work well in pies and fools. American gooseberries are round and about 1/2 inch in diameter, while European gooseberries are oblong, and about twice the size of American gooseberries. They're very acidic, and so they're great with roasted meats, like goose. The freshest gooseberries are covered with fuzz.
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grapes
grapes
Many varieties of grapes are turned into wine, vinegar, jelly, and raisins, but table grapes are for eating out of hand. They're classified by their color--red, green, and blue--and by whether they have seeds or not. Seedless varieties are popular because they're easy to eat, but often the seeded varieties offer more flavor and better value.
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huckleberry
huckleberry
These are similar to blueberries, and they're great for making preserves and syrups. Some specialty markets carry them in the summer.
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jaboticaba
jaboticaba
These resemble large, dark purple grapes, and they're very popular in Brazil. You can eat them like grapes, though you'll have to contend with thick, tart skins. You can also make delicious jams, jellies, and wines from them.
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juneberry
juneberry
These are very similar to blueberries.
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keriberry
keriberry
These large berries taste like a cross between blackberries and raspberries.
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kiwi fruit
kiwi fruit
This small, oblong fruit is has fuzzy brown skin and beautiful green flesh dotted with edible black seeds. It tastes like a cross between gooseberries and strawberries. It's very versatile--you can eat it as a snack, blend it into sauces or sorbets, or peel and slice it as a garnish. It also contains an enzyme that tenderizes meat. Select kiwis that are hard, and allow them to ripen at room temperature for a few days.
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lingonberry
lingonberry
These tart relatives of the cranberry grow only in cold climates. They're often made into jams, juices, sauces, syrups, or compotes. Scandinavians like to serve sweetened lingonberries with game.
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loganberry
loganberry
These are like blackberries, only they're dark red when ripe and more acidic. They're especially good in pies and preserves.
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marionberry
marionberry
After Washington, D.C., mayor Marion Barry was arrested for possessing cocaine in 1989, marion berry jam enjoyed brief popularity as a novelty item.
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mulberry
mulberry
These are so fragile that almost no markets carry them.
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olallieberry
olallieberry
This cross between a youngberry and a loganberry is black and fairly sweet.
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raspberry
raspberry
It's a real challenge to get these hollow, fragile berries to consumers before they spoil, so you'll have to pay a high price for those that make it. Many don't, so check them carefully for mildew before you buy them. A good alternative is to buy them frozen.
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red currant
red currant
With their brilliant coloring, red currants make terrific garnishes. They're also pleasantly tart, and often used to make jellies, syrups, and wine. Fresh ones are available in some markets during the summer, but frozen currants are acceptable substitutes for fresh in many recipes.
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strawberry
strawberry
Strawberries aren't as fragile as other berries, so they don't need the special handling that makes most berries so expensive. The best time to buy them is in the spring, but you can find them throughout the year, though the price might be higher and the quality lower. Select berries that have fully ripened to a dark red.
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sweet gooseberry
sweet gooseberry
These are similar to gooseberries, but they have a red blush and are much sweeter.
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youngberry
youngberry
This is closely related to the blackberry.
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Zante grapes
Zante grapes
These clusters of tiny grapes are often used as a garnish.
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