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Berries: Natural Nutrition

Saturday, 17 November 2012 | Tags: , ,

Berries of all kinds are a sweet treat, whether alone or in baked goods, sauces, ice cream or many other dishes. Since berries are seasonal, we take a look at how to buy them, no matter what season it is.

The Basics

  • Select berries that are firm and deeply colored. (Berries with deep, vibrant color are packed with even more phytonutrients.)

  • When possible, purchase berries from local farm markets during their prime growing season:

    • Strawberries: May through July

    • Blueberries: the whole summer

    • Raspberries: early to mid-summer

    • Blackberries (also called black raspberries): late summer

  • It’s important to check for ripeness, especially if you plan to use the berries right away:

    • Strawberries should be fragrant and bright red, with no white or green patches near their stems

    • Blueberries should be firm but not hard. Fresh blueberries should always move in the box when shaken.

    • Raspberries and blackberries should be plump and shiny, firm and fully coloured. Unripe berries won’t ripen once picked, so avoid green-tipped raspberries, and only pick blackberries that are a deep, rich purple-black all over.

  • Berries have a very short shelf life, which means their peak flavor and texture only lasts two to three days.

  • When buying at a store, watch out for squashed or moldy berries hiding beneath the top layer. Lift up a few of the top layer if you’re buying a basket or pint to make sure those underneath are just as good as the top.Also steer clear of stained boxes.

  • Buying local gives you the freshest, most nutritious berries because they won’t have traveled far from where they were harvested. Imported produce is often picked before it’s ripe, and then sits on a truck or in a warehouse for days or weeks before arriving on store shelves.

  • If you live near a rural area, a fun way to spend an afternoon is at a “Pick Your Own” berry farm, where you can go into the fields and pick your own fruit. It’s a great family activity, and you’ll also know exactly how fresh your produce is! 

  • Raspberries tend to be expensive because they bruise so easily, spoil quickly, and don’t ship well.

  • Berries freeze well and can be kept frozen for up to one year.

Cooking Tips

  • Don’t wash your berries until you’re ready to use them. If they are left moist, they’ll potentially go mouldy much sooner.

  • If your recipe calls for berries but they’re not in season, opt for frozen. Frozen berries are sometimes better than fresh, especially off-season, because they’ve been picked at their peak of ripeness and frozen within a few hours.

  • If you’re buying frozen, make sure you get the kind without any added sugar, or your recipe could turn out too sweet.

Nutritional Benefits

  • Raspberries are high in Vitamin C, fibre, potassium, Vitamin A, and calcium. They’re a good source of iron and folate. They also contain cancer-preventing ellagic acid and are known to lower cholesterol.

  • Blueberries are well-known for their anti-oxidant power, which helps fight aging, cancer, and heart disease. They’re also high in fibre, Vitamin A, and niacin, and contain iron, Vitamin C, and other minerals (including manganese). They also contain condensed tannins that prevent urinary tract infections, as well as a natural compound linked to reducing eye strain.

  • Blackberries, like other berries, also contain a high amount of cancer-fighting antioxidants. They’re a good source of Vitamin E, folate, potassium, magnesium, manganese, fibre, and Vitamin C. 
    • Not a fan of the seeds? Cut them some slack! Blackberry seeds contain oils rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, as well as protein, fibre, carotenoids, and other cancer-fighting anti-oxidants.

  • Raspberries, blueberries, strawberries and blackberries are high-flavonoid super foods (along with apples, apricots, pears, black beans, cabbage, onions, parsley, pinto beans, and tomatoes) and are known to help protect blood vessels from rupture or leakage and also to prevent the build-up of fatty deposits against vessel walls. They also enhance the power of your vitamin C, protect cells from oxygen damage, and prevent excessive inflammation throughout your body.

  • Strawberries and blueberries are known to improve vision.

 

Thanks to the following locations for help filming this Anna & Kristina’s Grocery Bag segment:

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