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A Kitchen Inspired by Berry Season

Kathleen Tozzi Kathleen Tozzi A Kitchen Inspired by Berry Season
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I wasn’t really allowed to pick black raspberries when I was a kid, which was definitely for the best of everyone involved.

Delicious berries by the handful.

First of all, you had to go well into the woods to find the best bushes and I get lost navigating the streets of Columbus with a GPS as an adult, so as a child wandering through the forest off the known paths and to the places where the best berries were was a much better chore for my brother and more often than that, my Mom.

Second, I was terribly allergic to poison ivy and even going after the sweet berries on the very edge of the woods on our property generally ended up with days of itchy misery for me and everyone who had to be close enough to me to listen to me whine. But none of that stopped me from enjoying the delicious little fruits of their labor every summer. I think my absolute favorite way to eat berries to this day is just fresh and maybe with just a drizzle of honey or sprinkle of sugar on a warm homemade biscuit. Oh, and don’t forget the whipped cream…

June brings the beginning of berry season in Ohio and local strawberries will be showing up in the store, at the farmer’s markets and at roadside stands very soon. Nothing quite says “Summer is Here” like fresh locally grown strawberries. I thought this would be a great time to explore some classic berry dishes that make you feel like a lazy perfect early summer afternoon and maybe some ideas to bring these sweet superfoods into your everyday meals in new and interesting ways.

Did she really just say “superfoods”? I know, I know… that’s not really a quantifiable term and it’s certainly not one of my personal favorite ones when it comes to foods. I mean…I love food and I love healthy food… and I think bacon is a pretty super food sometimes too. But, berries in general -especially blueberries- have some really great nutritional properties and antioxidants, and you just can’t deny that that is pretty super and generally what is meant by the term “superfood”.

Fresh strawberries are an excellent source of Vitamin C, one cup of them (which is 2 servings) has about 100 percent of your daily need, that’s a lot of immunity-boosting and antioxidant power right there. Blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, and cherries are all full of Vitamin A and flavonoids. Blueberries are the most vitamin rich of them all and have high levels of potassium as well. That’s really super and all…but the best part: they are so yummy and in peak season!

This field guide was posted last season on the Whole Story blog from Whole Foods Market and is helpful for picking and storing your naturally sweet little treats:

Blueberries: Look for firm, dry, plump berries with a subtle, whitish bloom (natural powdery coating)

Strawberries: Choose firm, dry berries that are uniform in color with a good sheen and fresh green caps attached

Raspberries: Pick plump, dry and even-colored berries –some varieties have a natural bloom and some have a shinier appearance

Blackberries: Reach for berries deep in color with a nice sheen. Ideal color ranges from deep blue/purple to deep purple/black

Storing berries: So you’ve picked the best berries of the bunch, have a basket ripe for devouring, but you’re not ready to eat just yet. Here are three tips to help you preserve summer’s bounty.

  • Don’t wash berries until you’re just about to serve them
  • Store your berries in the refrigerator
  • For maximum enjoyment, consume berries as soon as possible after purchase.

Now, if you’re interested in creating something different with these lovely summer gems, here are some fun things to try:

Berries become the star of this salad.

Any fresh berries are a great addition to a salad. To let them be the star of the plate, I chiffonade (that’s a fancy French term for chopping to look like ribbon, but any chopping will do) kale, sprinkle with all manner of berries, drizzle with balsamic vinegar and oil, salt and pepper. (If a bowl of raw kale is too much green for you, don’t hesitate to use any type of lettuce.) Nuts are a lovely combination as well, so I chop some candied almonds on top. I found a sweet little bottle of vanilla salt in my cabinet that just turned up this salad’s volume. To make your own vanilla salt, place a little piece of vanilla bean in a small jar of flake salt or sea salt. Vanilla salt is amazing on many things, including salads with fruit, grilled stone fruits, or even fish with citrus butter.

Don’t like to eat your greens? Well then…drink them! A smoothie with kale or spinach needs nothing more than a bunch of berries to sweeten it up and add even more of an antioxidant punch.

Of course all types of berries can be made into jam or jelly, and that is a time-honored, traditional way of preserving the taste of summer. I recently found this recipe for a berry condiment of a different sort, Pickled Blueberries. I can think of so many uses for these – from a side dish to grilled pork, to a salad topper, and definitely an accompaniment to some stinky Camembert cheese!

Traditional Strawberry Shortcake.

For an easy and a great treat on a hot day when there is just no way that the oven could be turned on, berry yogurt pops can be made by pureeing any berry with a touch of honey. Pour the mixture into a Popsicle mold half-way and then fill the rest of the mold with with yogurt, then freeze.

Sometimes though, you just need a classic. Here is a fantastic recipe for Traditional Strawberry Shortcake. Nothing beats a biscuit-full of berries with whipped cream on a warm summer evening.

Of course, I’m not sure anything quite beats just a bowl of fresh sweet berries eaten by the handful. And no matter what you do with them this is the season to enjoy the bounty of berries, sun-ripened, and sweetened to perfection.

What’s your favorite berry? Tell us in an email to [email protected].

With “A Kitchen Inspired” we will share with you the current and up and coming ingredients, products and cooking methods that inspire our team members, chefs and the kitchen at Whole Foods Market Dublin.

Founded in 1980 in Austin, Texas, Whole Foods Market (wholefoodsmarket.com, NASDAQ: WFM), is the leading natural and organic food retailer. As America’s first national certified organic grocer, Whole Foods Market was named “America’s Healthiest Grocery Store” by Health magazine. The company’s motto, “Whole Foods, Whole People, Whole Planet”™ captures its mission to ensure customer satisfaction and health, Team Member excellence and happiness, enhanced shareholder value, community support and environmental improvement.

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