Berry season is back, and with it, a potential bonanza for anyone working in the foodservice industry. Wherever berries can be found around the world, strawberry, blueberry, and raspberry flavors top consumers’ all-time favorite lists. They appeal to individuals of all ages, and they can be found in recipes for breakfasts, desserts, beverages, and side dishes. But did you know that there is an entire smorgasbord of equally delicious and nutritious berries just waiting to be discovered by your chefs and devoured by your customers?
From familiar pomegranates, cranberries, melons, and kiwis (yes, the latter are all technically considered berries) to gooseberries, huckleberries, mulberries, elderberries, boysenberries, and lingonberries, the list goes on. And here is some more berry trivia to ingest: In strictly botanical terms, strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries do not actually cut the grade as ‘real’ berries but are classified as ‘aggregate’ or ‘fake’ fruit! And…the world’s largest and heaviest berry – the pumpkin!
What Exactly is a Berry?
Technically, berries are defined as fruit that grow from one flower with one ovary (for example, blueberries, tomatoes, and watermelon). Aggregate fruits grow from flowers with more than one ovary wherein the fruit you eat is comprised of dozens of tiny fruits called ‘drupelets.’ For example, there are more than 200 tiny seeds on the outside of a typical strawberry and over 200 varieties of raspberries exist in nature.
Are Berries Nutritious?
Low in calories, rich in fiber, and choc full of Vitamin C, Vitamin A, folic acid, potassium, calcium, and antioxidants that help prevent a range of diseases, berries are considered some of the most nutrient-packed and health-promoting fruits on the planet. For instance:
- Blueberries are known to improve coordination, brain activity, and memory by enhancing brain cell connections. They also contain up to three times as many antioxidants as other fruits and veggies such as apples, spinach and broccoli.
- Cranberries produce hippuric acid in the urine, preventing bacteria from sticking to the bladder walls. They are therefore a leading doctor’s prescription for treating bladder infection.
- Boasting over 100 mg of Vitamin C per cup, one cup of strawberries trumps 1 cup of orange juice with more than 140% of your daily Vitamin C requirements.
- Raspberries help promote healthy vision due to their lutein content – a protective substance that blocks the harmful, high-energy blue wavelengths of visible light.
Finally, as you update your restaurant’s menu to cash in on the season, add this colorful piece of trivia to your industry know-how: It is precisely their plethora of colorful hues or phytochemicals that give berries their unique properties and that are responsible for their great visual and taste-bud tingling appeal.
What You Didn’t Know about Boysenberries
Among the rising culinary stars in 2021 is the boysenberry. A cultivated hybrid of the loganberry, dewberry, blackberry, and raspberry, boysenberries are a chef’s favorite and a nutritional superfood to boot. Rich in protective antioxidants called anthocyanins and a great source of fiber, Vitamins A and C, as well as iron, calcium, potassium, phosphorous, and magnesium, boysenberries are delicious in jams, syrups, and baked goods, but can also compliment a range of savory appetizers and main dishes.
Deep maroon in color with a superfine skin and fragile texture, boysenberries are described as extremely juicy with a rich, deep taste like blackberries but with a hint of tartness. They cook beautifully in white sauces, are decadent with fresh goat cheese and flatbreads, are a refreshing addition to fruit salads, shakes, and smoothies, and pair well with poultry, sherry, rum, and chocolate!
Berry Season 2021 Newcomers
Wondering what other types of unusual berries you can add to your 2021 summer menu?
Blue Honeysuckle Berries: Delight and surprise your customers by introducing them to blue honeysuckle berries, another fruit rapidly rising in the popularity charts. Harvested in May, earlier than most other seasonal produce, the fruits resemble blueberries in color and texture but are sweeter in taste and packed with Vitamin C.
Mulberries: Also, experiment sweetening your recipes by tossing in some mulberries. They are visual head-turners, ranging in color from red to deep purple or black, and boast plenty of Vitamin C and iron.
Elderberries: Finally, elderberries are becoming increasingly available in grocery stores, and they are not only tasty but pack a nutritional punch with significant amounts of fiber, iron, potassium, Vitamin B6, and Vitamin C.
Professional Tips: How to Keep Berries Fresh Longer
If there is one drawback to berries it is how quickly these fresh fruits go bad. With mold and moisture as their mortal enemy, what can you do to prevent your produce from deteriorating at warp speed?
Fortunately, there are many methods available to keep mold from spreading and for preserving berries in their mouth-watering state for longer.
Here are some expert tips on preserving and storing berries year-round:
- Discard visibly moldy berries immediately. Use or consume super-ripe berries within two days.
- Berries will keep for two to three days in the refrigerator. Place in a moisture-proof container with the lid left ajar or with ventilation holes on top that allow moisture and condensation to evaporate.
- Do not wash fresh berries until you are about to use them.
- Use frozen versus fresh fruit (the berries are picked and frozen immediately). They provide the same nutritional benefits as their counterparts and may even be more nutrient dense when all the vitamins and minerals are preserved.
- Freeze fresh berries as follows: Remove damaged or unripe berries from the mix. Rinse under cool water and pat thoroughly dry. Arrange whole or halved in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Freeze for 30 minutes or until frozen solid.
- In a flash, mold can spread through an entire basket of berries. To borrow an expression: One bad apple spoils the bunch. You can kill off the bacteria by giving berries a vinegar and water bath. Note: This works for firmer varieties such as blackberries and blueberries, but for fragile types like raspberries, stick to the classic ‘rinse right before eating’ rule. Also, a vinegar bath will not ‘fix’ moldy fruit. They should be separated and thrown out right away.
- Instructions: In a large bowl, combine 3 cups of cold water with 1 cup white vinegar. Immerse berries and swish around for one minute. Drain and rinse under a gentle stream of cold water until vinegar aroma and taste are gone. Roll lightly to dry.
Berry Delicious Dishes and Desserts
Here are some ways to add luscious berries to your summer menu with some winning recipes to follow.
- Add berries to yogurts, shakes, smoothies, cereal, cakes, muffins, and cocktails
- Try your chef’s hand at making berry pancakes, puree, syrup, scones, bran muffins, quick bread, butter, and trifle.
Raspberry Shortcake Popsicles
- 3 cups fresh raspberries
- 1/2 cup cottage cheese
- 2/3 cup plain yogurt
- 6 tbsp. sugar
- Using a blender, blend raspberries until pureed
- Pour raspberries through a sieve to strain and discard seeds
- Blend the raspberry puree with remaining ingredients until smooth
- Pour mixture into paper cups or popsicle molds. Insert popsicle sticks and freeze until solid, about 4 hours.