You can buy berries frozen year-round, but a recent multistate outbreak of Hepatitis A linked to a frozen blend of organic berries might give you pause and motivate you to seek out fresh ones.
The Oregon company that produced the contaminated frozen berries has recalled them, noting that they contained pomegranate seeds from Turkey. Preliminary lab studies of two specimens suggest that the strain of the hepatitis virus in the outbreak is one found in the Middle East and North Africa and rarely in North or South America, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
It is also a reminder of why it pays to buy fresh, locally grown produce. In the case of berries, fresh ones are sweeter and have a better texture than the frozen ones which often defrost into a mushy mass. High in fiber, low in calories, rich in numerous vitamins and healthful compounds including (depending on the type) flavonoids and lutein, berries have numerous health benefits. Why not take advantage of these by filling your reusable grocery bag with some?
Fresh strawberries can keep for a few days in the refrigerator. Absolutely be sure to wash them carefully! While some recommend only washing them right before you eat them, others suggest using a diluted vinegar rinse and then drying them thoroughly with paper towels to keep them fresh longer.
Choose plump, fragrant ones and keep them in the refrigerator for up to two weeks (and in the freezer for up to a year), if you can wait that long to eat them. Use glass or plastic containers as blueberries react with metal ones and become discolored.
Blackberries are relatives of the rose. To get the most of their antioxidants and vitamins, eat them within 24 hours after gathering or buying, lest they become moldy and mushy.
Small and round and with a taste similar to blueberries, huckleberries contain seeds (which makes them crunchy) and thicker skins. They are not grown commercially and are found wild or in farmer’s markets (or you can grow your own). Huckleberries reach their peak in August so you can still enjoy them into the later days of summer.
A cross between raspberries and blackberries, loganberries were created by accident in Oregon in the 1800s. They have a tart taste; they are mostly home-grown and, as they ripen at different times, are not likely to be commercially produced.
Closely related to currants, gooseberries can range from tiny and yellow or large and red; they can also be green and white and a dark purple. The plants are hardy and productive and the fruits are often cooked into desserts and jams. As the season progresses, larger and softer varieties of gooseberries become available that are better for eating raw.
About the size of a pea, but red and oval, lingonberries are closely related to cranberries (pdf), though not quite as tart; it’s thought that they are similar in nutrition to cranberries. They have quite a few other names including cowberry, red foxberry, partridge berry and whimberry.
Mulberries — the very ones in the children’s nursery song — can be eaten raw if they are ripe; in this form, they are a source of raw food protein and some have hailed the white varieties as a superfood. The trees are hardy and resistant to pollution and drought (one urban forager reports sampling some berries from trees growing in New York City).
Genetically, these berries are two-thirds blackberry and one-third red European raspberry. Olallieberries were created in 1935 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture at Oregon State University, by crossing a loganberry (as noted, a cross between a blackberry and a raspberry) with a youngberry (a cross between a blackberry and a dewberry).
“Olallie” is actually the word for berry in Chinook jargon. Given all those crossings that went into creating these, it makes sense that their name means “berry berry.”
Olallieberries are tart as well as sweet. They are only in season for about four weeks so carpe diem and don’t wait a day too long to get (and eat, and cook) these berries and many others!
Photos from Thinkstock