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PlacerGROWN: Berries Are In Season

Jul 02, 2019 04:08PM

WHAT’S IN SEASON: BERRIES

It’s a “berry” nice time of year at local farmers’ markets, because we’re starting to see a wide variety of the sweet little jewels of nature. Even though a berry is defined as “any fruit that has seeds enclosed in a fleshy pulp”—such as bananas, tomatoes, watermelons, avocados, and pumpkins—typically, we’re referring to strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries.


DID YOU KNOW?

In the U.S., peak blackberry season runs from July to August. In order to produce good local blackberries, producers depend on ideal spring and early summer weather conditions, so we should be looking at a berry boom this year! Brimming with vitamin C, potassium, and fiber, almost all berries are suitable to eat raw and vary from 50-100 calories per one-cup serving. They’re also loaded with antioxidant-rich plant compounds called flavonoids, which provide potent health protection. Some research shows that berries also take care of your brain by activating a natural housekeeping mechanism; when activated, toxic proteins linked to age-related memory loss and mental decline are cleaned up and recycled, so eating berries is like a good spring cleaning for your brain.


SELECTION AND STORAGE

Select plump, firm blackberries that are dry, firm, well-shaped, and eaten within a week after purchase. If you can’t eat them that soon, they freeze very well; spread them in a single layer on a cookie sheet in the freezer, transfer them to a re-sealable plastic bag when firm, and continue to store in the freezer. Frozen berries should last approximately 10-12 months. Whole, frozen berries destined for baked goods should be used frozen, and gently folded into pies, cakes, and muffins just prior to use. Blueberries tend to change color during cooking. Acids, like lemon juice and vinegar, make the blue turn red. In an alkaline environment, such as a batter with too much baking soda, the berries may turn greenish-blue.


For details on where to buy Placer County farm-fresh produce, wine, meat, and other products, visit placergrown.org and foothillfarmersmarket.com.


RECIPE: Blackberry Sherbet with Fresh Mint

Recipe by Courtney McDonald


2 baskets blackberries, boysenberries, or black raspberries, washed and patted dry

1 1/4 cups sugar

1/2 cup honey

1/4 cup packed fresh mint leaves

Juice and zest of 1 lemon

1/2 tsp. salt

3 1/2 cups whole milk or half and half

1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream


Purée the berries with the sugar, honey, and mint leaves in a blender until completely smooth.  Strain through a fine mesh sieve into a medium-sized mixing bowl to remove seeds.  Whisk in the lemon juice and zest, salt, milk, and cream.  Chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or overnight, then freeze in an ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions.  Transfer to a freezer-proof bowl, cover the surface with wax paper, and let set for at least 2 hours before scooping.  Serve garnished with fresh berries and mint. Makes 1 1/2 quarts.


By Carol Arnold
photo courtesy of Courtney McDonald of Four Tines Farm