So this is my second blog in my summer ’16 dessert series (the first was the homemade horchata popsicles). I don’t know about you, but most of my summer desserts contain, or are piled high with, or dumped over, fresh summer berries! I wait all winter, and most of spring, for those bright, juicy, tender, and sweet summer berries to start appearing at the store. Maybe it’s mental, but there is something so… summery about biting into a strawberry you know is fresh and in-season. It’s corny, but the thought that it tastes like sunshine has occurred to me (I know, I know. I’m a writer. I can wax too poetical, sometimes…)
Anyway, first things first: how to choose berries at the store. Summer desserts just aren’t the same with sub-par, tasteless berries. I covered the basics, along with what to look for when shopping for other summer fruits in last year’s summer produce blog, but I’m sharing a few more tips that I use for finding the juiciest, sweetest, and freshest berries in the grocery stores.
A note: These aren’t full-proof—they work most of the time. But, more often than not, they work when berries are in season.
- Look for Deep Color
While not an indicator of taste and freshness 100% of the time (I’ve been very disappointed on that account…), deep color can usually tell you whether a bunch of berries are ripe, juicy, and tasty. Look for deeply crimson raspberries, deeply red and shiny strawberries, shiny, almost black raspberries, and deeply blue blueberries.
The colors will deepen as the fruit gets older, but your eye will probably notice a difference between old berries and fresh, ripe berries. You’ll probably also notice some wrinkling, soft spots, or dullness.
- Smell the Berries
Have you ever been walking through the produce section of your grocery store and stopped because a sweet, summer smell made you stop in your tracks as you passed the strawberries? Fresh, ripe berries smell like they’re supposed to—you can smell the sweet perfume of ripe summer strawberries and the earthier, slightly sharp aroma of raspberries. Underripe, out-of-season berries usually don’t smell like much.
- Take a Close Look at the Carton
This takes a combination of your senses and the tips above. Before you put it in your cart, look at the carton: what do they smell like? Can you see any mold, dark spots, or soft spots? Do the berries look bright and fresh or wrinkly and old? What is the color like?
Your senses will do a good job at telling you what’s good and what’s not a majority of the time.
- Ask for Delivery Date
Stores receive deliveries of certain items on certain days of the week, so ask if they know when their deliveries come in and specifically when the berries come in. There’s a better chance of getting fresh berries if you go in that day!
- Know Seasons
Just like all veggies and fruit, berries all have their seasons, and in-season berries are often the most flavorful and juicy. Knowing which berries are in season when will help you know what to look for at the store. You can find more about seasons for specific berries on the blog about summer produce!
So those are the guides I use to find the best berries during the summer. Admittedly, it doesn’t work all the time, as I said above—there are always a few trips to the store that end with a disappointing carton of berries that *looked* perfect, but turn out to be duds. But! More often than not, I’ll end up with those amazing, sweet, juicy, brightly flavorful berries that I start eating in the car on the way home (which is why I usually buy two cartons…).
What’s your favorite type of berry? Tell me in the comments below!
‘Till next time!