By Mary Carter
It’s hard to ignore all of the pick-your-own and farm-stand fresh berries this time of year. They seem to shout, “Look at me! I’m beautiful! Take me home!” Tennessee strawberries burst onto the scene in National Strawberry Month in May and are followed eagerly by our succulent blackberries, plump blueberries, and sweet ruby red (and black and gold) raspberries. The berry love affair has several months to blossom. Our ample growing season yields rich opportunities for fresh-picked goodness and culinary creativity.
When visiting a berry patch, pick the ripest berries. If you have to tug at them, they are not ready. Berries don’t ripen after picking like some fruits. Eat them, bake with them, freeze them or make preserves with them quickly. They set the terms on readiness and flirt briefly with our taste buds.
These heart-shaped gems should not have any pale green or white tops or tips. Buy them red. Eat them red. Remember that strawberries are porous. They absorb water like a sponge. Gently rinse them just before eating. Refrigerate them until that quick rinse. Related Recipe: Overnight French Toast With Mixed Berries
Blackberries ripen in June through August all across the state. Ripe blackberries are so full of juice that they look like they’re ready to pop. They are rich in vitamins B and C. It is true that chiggers will eat your ankles as eagerly as you eat the blackberries when picking. Ardent devotes endure this test. Related Recipe: Wilted Spinach Salad With Blackberries, Goat Cheese and Warm Balsamic Vinaigrette
Candy-sweet raspberries are a great source of fiber and vitamin C. They also ripen in that mid-summer window. Be certain to inspect any pre-picked batches. The bottom berries are easily crushed and tend to mold. Related Recipe: Raspberry Lime Tart
When picking them, you should be able to gently run your hand under these bouncy berries and catch them in a basket. They ripen in early summer until fall. Related Recipe: Grilled Chicken Thighs With Blueberry Salsa
If freezing berries, rinse them carefully in a colander. Place them on paper towels and drain well. Next, place them in a single layer on a jellyroll pan, and put the pan in the freezer. When hardened, they can be placed in freezer bags or plastic containers for about three months. Thawed berries can still be very nice in sauces and in baking. They do tend to weep. Maybe that’s because they miss the sweetness of summer.
Bonus Berry Recipe: Lamb Chops With Berry Mint Sauce