In June & July, We’re Going Crazy For Fresh Berries!

delicious-colorful-berriesWhat is better in the summer than sweet, delicious, and juicy berries? Here at ASK In Your Face, we will be posting articles on different berries with recipes, health benefits, the differences between organic and conventional fruits, and much more! Each week June, we will feature a different berry that you’ll want to bite into right after you read our article. Today, we’re giving you a sneak peek of all the delicious berries you have to choose from!

List of Different Berries:

  • Acai berry: Acai berries have garnered attention recently as a super food high in fatty acids, proteins and antioxidants. The dark purple fruit grow in clusters in palm trees native to the Amazon jungle of South America.
  • Barbados cherry: The Barbados cherry is a small shrub or tree that grows in the Caribbean and some parts of Central and South America. It is not at all cold hardy, suffering damage when temperatures dip below 30 degrees F. The fruit are bright red, cherry-like and very juicy.
  • Barberry: Barberry shrubs are used primarily as landscape plants, particularly around foundations. Birds love the small, red fruits. They’re too sour to enjoy fresh, but are palatable when cooked with sugar.
  • Bearberry: Found in arctic and subarctic zones around the world, the bearberry produces red berries enjoyed by bears and humans alike. Native people gather the leaves of bearberry plants for use as in folk medicine said to cure rheumatoid arthritis, gout, back pain, headaches and kidney stones.
  • Bilberry: Similar to blueberries, these flavorful berries grow wild throughout northern Europe. They are highly perishable and don’t transport well. Europeans pick the wild berries for fresh eating, jams and baked goods.
  • Blackberry: Blackberries are related to raspberries and grow wild throughout the Pacific Northwest and the South. These plants prefer moist, fertile soils and mild winters. New varieties are more cold hardy, but gardeners north of U.S. Department of Agriculture planting zone 6 will have better success with raspberries.
  • Blueberry: Sweet, juicy blueberries are used for fresh eating, or in sauces and baked goods. Unfortunately, blueberries require acidic soil with a pH between 4.5 and 5.5. If you have alkaline soil, you will need to heavily amend it or grow your blueberries in containers.
  • Black Mulberry: The black mulberry grows only in warm climates, south of zone 7, but is a favorite fruit among Southern cooks. Substitute it for blackberries in pies and jams.
  • Boysenberry: An botanist developed the boysenberry in the 1920s by crossing raspberries, blackberries and logan berries. Walter Knott grew the berries at his farm and his wife made the sweet fruit into preserves. Knott’s Berry Farm became famous and the rest is history. Boysenberries require conditions similar to blackberries.
  • Buffalo berry: Buffalo berry grows wild throughout the Great Plains region and is enjoyed by humans and wildlife alike. The plant produces large, red fruit suitable for eating fresh, dried or in baked goods.
  • Chokeberry: Chokeberry shrubs are often used as landscape plants because they are drought tolerant, disease resistant and grow under the shade of other trees. The fruit is acerbic, but makes good wine and preserves.
  • Chokecherry: The chokecherry grows wild throughout many parts of the West, although it grows easily in gardens, as well. Use this tart fruit in jams and syrups.
  • Cowberry: Cowberries grow wild throughout northern Europe and Canada, producing tart red fruit, similar to cranberries. The fruit are used in baked goods and preserves.
  • Cranberry: Not just for the Thanksgiving meal, cooks appreciate cranberries for their tart, fresh flavor. Cranberries are wetland fruits, requiring acidic peat soil, constant moisture and a long growing season.
  • Currant: Currants thrive in regions with cool, moist conditions. The small, round fruits may be translucent white, red or purple with a rich, tart flavor used for preserves or wines.
  • Dewberry: Wild black berries that grow on long, creeping vines. These plants grow prolifically throughout the Pacific Northwest. Eat them fresh or use them in jams and baked goods. They have a slightly bitter taste.
  • Elderberry: Similar to currants, elderberries are dark red to purple and make fine wine and preserves. Grow this plant in cool, moist regions with cold winters.
  • Goji berry: Bright red goji berries have been heralded as a super food, high in antioxidants. The shrubs are native to the mountainous regions of China and the Himalayas, but researchers in Utah are experimenting with them. They tolerate drought, extreme heat and cold, and poor soils.
  • Gooseberry: This thorny plant produces tart, green berries used in pies and preserves. Gooseberries thrive in cool areas and prefer rich, moist soils.
  • Grape: Believe it or not, grapes are botanically classified as berries. Table grapes are used fresh and may be red, green or black. Small, seeded types have an aromatic flavor and are used for juices and wines.
  • Huckleberry: Huckleberries grow wild throughout the Pacific Northwest, thriving in the cool, moist conditions found in woodland settings. They are similar to blueberries, and are delicious fresh, or in jams and baked goods.
  • Juneberry: This plant tolerates drought, cold winters and poor soils, growing wild throughout much of North America. It is used more often as a landscaping plant, although the fruit is tasty, resembling blueberries.
  • Logan Berry: This cross between a raspberry and a blackberry has a distinct taste and is used commercially in jams and juices. Grow logan berry as you would blackberries.
  • Nannyberry: This plant grows wild in northern woodlands and marshes. The berry resembles chokecherries in appearance and taste. Use it in syrups and preserves.
  • Oregon Grape: Oregon grapes grow well in a variety of soils and are used primarily as a landscaping shrub. The small, purple fruits are tart, but are eaten fresh or made into wine or preserves. Oregon grape root is used medicinally to treat diahrrea, constipation, giardia and gallbladder disease.
  • Persimmon: Like tomatoes, persimmons are botanically classified as a berry. These squat or round orange fruit hail from the Middle East and Asia, although gardeners in the Southern United States successfully grow them as well. They have a tart taste and slightly mealy texture.
  • Raspberry: Raspberries are cold-hardy and long-lived, producing sweet, flavorful fruit suitable for fresh eating, sauces and preserves. Plant raspberries in fertile soil and provide at least 1 inch of water weekly.
  • Red Mulberry: Red mulberry trees are native to many parts of the United States. They produce fruit similar to blackberries. The fruit are highly perishable and leave a mess on sidewalks and hard surfaces.
  • Salmonberry: Salmonberry is a perennial plant native to Alaska and Canada. The orange or red fruit resemble raspberries and are eaten fresh or in preserves.
  • Strawberry: A homegrown strawberry has little in common with those found in grocery stores. Homegrown varieties are often smaller, but have an intense strawberry flavor that makes you stand up and take notice. Grow them in fertile, moist soil and full sun.
  • Tayberry: This hybrid cross between a loganberry and a black raspberry produces sweet, red fruit. It grows in moist, fertile soil and is more frost hardy than blackberries.
  • Thimbleberry: A wild cousin of cultivated raspberries, thimbleberries grow from Alaska to northern Mexico. Use them fresh or in jams. They are softer and more perishable than raspberries and rarely sold commercially.
  • Wineberry: This wild raspberry grows throughout New England and is considered an invasive plant. The fruit are soft and tart.
  • Wintergreen: This plant grows on creeping vines throughout Canada and the northern United States. The berries have an acerbic taste that improves with freezing.
  • Youngberry: Byrnes M. Young introduced this hybrid cross between a dewberry and a blackberry in 1905. It is frequently grown in New Zealand, Australia and South Africa.

Courtesy of Gardening Channel (Toxic berries were deleted from list).

General Health Benefits of Berries

Most berries are naturally sweet and require little effort to prepare. Just rinse them under water and serve for a nutritious snack or dessert.

One cup of strawberries contains over 100 mg of vitamin C, almost as much as a cup of orange juice. We need vitamin C for immune system function and for strong connective tissue. Strawberries also add a bit of calcium, magnesium, folate and potassium and only 53 calories.

One cup of blueberries offers a smaller amount of vitamin C, minerals and phytochemicals for only 83 calories. The same amount of cranberries is similar, but with only 44 calories, 1 cup of raspberries offers vitamin C and potassium for 64 calories.

You can choose other berries with similar nutrition, such as loganberries, currants, gooseberries, lingonberries and bilberries.

More Than Pretty Colors

The pigments that give berries their beautiful blue and red hues are also good for your health. Berries contain phytochemicals and flavonoids that may help to prevent some forms of cancer. Cranberries and blueberries contain a substance that may prevent bladder infections. Eating a diet rich in blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, cranberries and strawberries may help to reduce your risk of several types of cancers. Blueberries and raspberries also contain lutein, which is important for healthy vision.

Choosing Berries

Every grocery store carries a wide variety of fresh, canned and frozen berries. Look for ripe, colorful and firm berries with no sign of mold or mushy spots. Berries can also be found in the frozen section of the grocery store. Once they thaw, they will not be as firm as freshly picked berries, but they are still delicious and good for you.

For the freshest berries, try farmers’ markets that offer berries harvested that same day. Some berry farms allow you to pick your own berries.

Ideas for Serving Berries

Most berries like strawberries, blueberries and raspberries are sweet enough to be served just as they are; however, here are some more ideas:

  • Top a bowl of berries with a dollop of light-whipped topping and a sprinkling of chopped pecans or walnuts
  • Add strawberry slices to a bowl of whole grain cereal
  • Sprinkle blueberries on a salad
  • Stir fresh raspberries into vanilla yogurt
  • Combine frozen berries with bananas and low-fat milk to make a smoothie

Most berries are naturally sweet, but some are too tart for most people to enjoy. Dried cranberries sold as snacks have some sugar added. Cranberry juice can also be combined with apple or grape juice to add sweetness.

Courtesy of Nutrition.About.com.

Organic berries vs. Conventional

Growing conventional berries involves using methyl bromide as a pre-plant fumigant for soil. Methyl bromide is a toxic chemical that has resulted in harmful side-effects to farm workers.

Also, according to the USDA Pesticide Data Program, the pesticide residue on conventional berries is the highest among ALL the fruits. Over 50 pesticide residues were identified! There is more and more information coming out that pesticides are extremely harmful for our health, especially for pregnant women and children.

We recommend choosing the safe option and picking organic berries. They are a bit more expensive, but if you care about our planet and your health, it is the right choice. Organic berries use less non-renewable resources, eliminate the use of toxic chemicals that harm our environment and health of farmers, conserves resources, and values health.

If you simply can’t afford to choose all organic fruits and vegetables, be sure to clean your fruits and vegetables thoroughly before eating. Scrub using a vegetable brush, soak in either salt water or vinegar, and peel the skin off whenever possible.

You may also like:

Go Organic, Even on a Budget

Strawberry Balsamic Salad

Bee Gardens: Flowers, Fruit, and Herbs

To read more from Lauren, check out Lauren’s Thoughts!

© Copyright 2011  Allison Stuart Kaplan  www.Askinyourface.com LLC

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