The joy of once again wearing shorts and flip-flops is only secondary to the joy of seeing local berries filling the supermarket shelves. Colorful and good for you, they are a favorite summertime food, with good reason.
Berries do great things for your body, from the inside out. Here’s how:
Vitamins: You can replace your glass of orange juice with a cup of strawberries and still get 100 mg of vitamin C. That will help keep your immune system in good working order and create strong connective tissue, so you’ll get fewer wrinkles.
Antioxidants: Berries have the highest concentration of antioxidants out of all fruits. Antioxidants slow cell destruction, meaning they can decrease the signs of aging and potentially help protect against cancer.
Phytochemicals: It is believed that these can help protect humans from disease.
Fiber: This is a necessary component of a healthy diet, as it slows the rate that sugar is absorbed into the bloodstream and makes you feel full longer.
Lutein: Important for healthy vision.
Since summer is the peak harvest time for berries, why not skip the grocery store and head straight to the source? Gather the family together and head to a local berry farm to pick your own. If you’re concerned about how the berries are grown, research a location that doesn’t use any chemical pesticides. Call ahead and make sure the crops are in good shape, since weather plays a big factor in the quality of the fruit. Then head out early, definitely before noon, because these farms get very busy and the fields could easily be picked clean by early afternoon. (Don’t forget to wear lots of sunscreen and pack some water and snacks.)
Instruct kids to look for plump, ripe berries, since the fruit will not continue to ripen once removed from the vine. These farms generally provide containers for pickers, but piling too many berries on top of each other can cause bruising, so bring along your Produce Saver containers as well. The vents in the lids will provide oxygen to the berries while the tray will lift them out of any moisture, so your produce will stay fresher longer.
Keep ’em fresh
Since the full-flavored, locally grown berries don’t last all year long, it makes sense to store them properly, so you never have to waste a single one. Produce Saver containers are great because they’re designed to keep produce fresh up to 33 percent longer than traditional containers. If you want to freeze the berries at the peak of their freshness, to use later in the season, try laying them out individually on wax paper-lined cookie sheets and popping them in the freezer overnight. The next day, transfer the frozen berries to Premier Containers and return them to the freezer. The berries won’t clump together and the stain-resistant containers won’t be forever marked.
The fun is in the eating
Berries are so versatile; you can fit a few into every meal of the day.
Breakfast: Toss a cup of mixed berries into the blender with a banana, some yogurt, some milk and a few ice cubes for a refreshing smoothie. Sprinkle blueberries in your oatmeal or layer strawberries with some crunchy granola and yogurt for a perfect parfait.
Lunch: Spruce up your spinach salad by adding sliced strawberries or slip a few fresh cranberries into your turkey sandwich to give it a little zing.
Dinner: Find an easy recipe for raspberry salsa to add some summertime flare to chicken or fish.
Dessert: Put them in a pie, pile them on top of ice cream or drizzle them with chocolate sauce.
Snack: The best part about berries is that they are so tasty on their own, so just wash some up and toss them in a portable container for an anytime, on-the-go snack.