- Food and Cooking
Berries from around the world
Summer time - berry time
It starts with strawberries and continues throughout the whole summer. Berry season. You can pick them from your garden or out in the wild - if you're lucky enough to live near somewhere where they grow. I grew up mainly with bilberries and wild raspberries and only gradually became aware of multitude of berry varieties all around the world. Read on to see if you've tried them all.
Botanically speaking, not all berries as we know them deserve this name. A berry proper is 'a fleshy fruit produced from a single ovary'. Thus, a tomato is a berry, too. For a mind that doesn't belong to a botanist, it's just not RIGHT. I'm going to disregard this rule altogether and stick to a very simple guideline - if it's called a berry, then it's a berry, ok?
Could I write an article about summer berries and not mention strawberries? Impossible.
My 'to do' list for June:
- Enjoy the sun
- Enjoy the sun even more
- Celebrate the longest day of the year
- Eat strawberries until you burst
Why is a strawberry called a strawberry?
- Option 1 - because the tiny seeds on the berry's surface look like straw-chaff
- Option 2 - because strawberry plants are mulched with straw to help them grow
- Option 3 - because children used to thread the berries onto long straws and sell them as 'straw with berries'
- Option 4 - because the fruit is 'strewn' all over the plant (and the ground too)
- Option 5 - nobody really knows but everybody is having fun guessing!
Strawberry and white chocolate cheesecake
I discovered this cheesecake recipe and thought - that's it! This will be a cheesecake to end all cheesecakes! The recipe looked delicious, easy and foolproof, plus I was pretty sure I could create all other flavour varieties off it. I gave it a go in its basic strawberry form.
I substituted a few ingredients, i.e. used mascarpone instead of fromage frais and digestive instead of shortbread biscuits. It was OK, the cake looked gorgeous and set properly. But...
Remember, my friend, never use salted philadelphia in cheesecakes!!!
For the original recipe, see the big link below.
Photo by Tiggered
Are you salivating yet?
Grow your own strawberries
Here's one you may not have heard of before. Also known as Japanese flowering dogwood, Japanese dogwood and kousa dogwood, the plant itself doesn't really look like strawberry at all, but its fruits kinda do. It's usually bought as a decorative bush, but the fruits are totally edible. I haven't tried them yet. If you happen to have a plant, invite me in for a taster :)
Oh, and they have pretty, pretty flowers too.
Have you heard of szechuan strawberries before?
Grow your own szechuan strawberries
I must have been 10 years old or so before I tasted blueberries 'proper' for the first time. What a revelation it was! My parents bought a blueberry bush for our garden and ever since I was impatiently waiting for the harvest to arrive. I'm not alone in this impatience - in US blueberries are second to strawberries only when it comes to fruit popularity. The extraordinarily high content of antioxidants in a blueberry means that this fame is truly deserved
Blueberries waiting to be picked
Blueberry days (in US)
- January 28 - Blueberry Pancake Day
- March 10 - Blueberry Popover Day
- April 28 - Blueberry Pie Day
- May 26 - Blueberry Cheesecake Day
- July 11 - Blueberry Muffin Day
Grow your own blueberries
Oh my, the taste of pure wild raspberry juice... If you've never tried it, GO FOR IT!! But to be honest, whatever you do with your raspberry, it will always taste fabulous.
Oh, and did you know that not all raspberries are red? I know it feels very unraspberry-like, but you can also get them in black, yellow and purple. Some say that yellow (or 'golden', as the romantics would have it) variety is the sweetest.
Raspberries or Strawberries?
Now, that's the tricky one! Shoot me dead, I still won't know which one I like better. Maybe you have more clear cut opinion on the matter?
Which one is better?
Raspberry days (in US)
- May 3 - Raspberry Popover Day
- July 31 - Raspberry Cake Day
- August 1 - Raspberry Cream Pie Day
- August 11 - Raspberry Bombe Day
Grow your own raspberries
Question: What's the difference between raspberries and blackberries if both can be black?
Answer: Raspberries have a core that stays on the bush when you pick them, and blackberry's core stays inside the fruit.
Have you noticed?
Dark, tall and handsome?
While it's quite easy to distinguish between 'true' raspberries and blackberries, people have been busying themselves with creating new varieties that are somewhere in between. All those new berries are so numerous it could make your head spin (they do it to mine, anyway). Let's try to demystify them a little bit. It may get a bit confusing!
- if you cross raspberry and blackberry, you'll get loganberry
- if you cross blackberry and dewberry, you'll get youngberry
- if you cross loganberry and youngberry, you'll get olallieberry
- if you cross loganberry and pacific blackberry, you'll get santiam berry
- if you cross santiam berry and Himalayan blackberry, you'll get Chehalem blackberry
- if you cross Chehalem blackberry and olallieberry, you'll get marionberry
- if you cross raspberry, blackberry and loganberry, you'll get boysenberry
- if you cross loganberry and black raspberry, you'll get tayberry
How many raspberry/blackberry hybrids have you tried?
Devil pees on blackberries on Old Michaelmas Day.
Or so they say in UK.
In truth, bad weather can cause the fruit to get mouldy and unsuitable for eating. But what imagination the English mothers had!
Oh, Old Michaelmas Day falls on October 11, if you were wondering.
Grow your own blackberries
Never has a berry been so fittingly named. The raw fruit is so astringent that you want to choke when you try to eat it. Blah, foul stuff. Believe me, I've been there, I've tried.
Aronia, as it is also known, is quite ok if you turn it into a jam, juice, pie or something like that. Anything that you will add heaps of sugar to as well.
It is also one of the most beneficient fruits you can come across. It's packed full of antioxidants and vitamin C and very few other fruits can match aronia on this field.
Unfortunately, my mum knows it too. What she didn't know when I was a child was the fact that chokeberry is considered inedible when raw (so foul is the taste). To add to my suffering, the wicked bush produced TONS of berries.
Don't repeat my mum's mistake, and don't feed chokeberries to your children before turning it into something edible. Please?
Grow your own chokeberries
This is one of my very favourite berries. I never ever do preserves (I may mend the error of my ways someday), but I cooked up two jars of rowanberry jelly last years because I simply couldn't resist the temptation of those beauties.
Rowanberries are thought poisonous by some, but this is completely not true. They just don't taste very well when eaten straight from the tree. But turn them into a jelly or a marmalade and you will have something truly unique.
Tip: let your rowanberries spend a week in the freezer after picking. This will remove tart taste.
Don't they just ask to be eaten?
To put it simple, bilberries are wild blueberries. They grow on tiny shrubs (which wouldn't even reach your knees, unless you're four year old). They taste similar to blueberries, with their particular 'wild' twist. Gathering bilberries is usually a joyful activity, as it includes a day out in a forest and the younger you are, the bigger the likelihood of coming home with huge purple bilberry juice stains all over your clothes and body. Now THESE are hell to get rid of, so if you're going out picking, better choose clothes that you won't mind throwing away after the trip.
In my family sun dried bilberries have always been considered a valuable medicine for all sorts of gastric ailments.
They are also known as blaeberries, whortleberries, whinberries, winberries, windberries, wymberries and myrtle blueberries.
Bilberry is another of those 'health wonder' plants, commonly used as food supplement. RAF pilots used to swear that bilberry jam sharpened their night vision. While scientist failed to prove it, they agree that bilberries are beneficial for the eyes and can help keep them healthy
Lingonberry (also known as cowberry or partridgeberry) is another typical 'forest berry'. To put it very, very simply, it's a red version of bilberry. Both shrubs are similar in size and grow in similar environment, their berries are the same size too (and this is where similarities end...). While bilberries are nearly black with bluish tint, lingonberries are the brightest red of holly berries around Christmas time. They also taste totally different - more tart, with very, very specific flavour that lingers on your tongue.
Lingonberries taste best when converted into jam - sugar makes the tartness go away.
Oh, and the smell of cooking lingonberry jam - heavenly.
If you want to grow (and eat!) lingonberries...
I don't particularly like gooseberries. That is, unless I happen to be near a gooseberry bush in the peak of gooseberry season, with the Sun shining and making the berries warm and as sweet as I can dream of. Yes, this is a proper way of eating gooseberries!
Funny thing, I haven't spotted gooseberries in Ireland even once, but I've seen gooseberry jam.
Gooseberry jam is good too.
Random piece of gooseberry knowledge
Terry Pratchett takes the BlackBerry (TM) and turns it into his very own wacky invention - GooseBerry - all happening in Discworld novels.
Absolutely bloody brilliant.
Jostaberry is what you get if you cross gooseberry and blackcurrant
This is an Australian berry. I discovered it recently and totally fell in love with its alternative name - lilli pilli. No berry anywhere has a better sounding name, full stop.
I've actually never tried it, so I won't pretend to be smart about it :)
Lilli pilli blog posts
Bloggers are to blame for me ever discovering the fact that there is such a thing in the world as lilli pilli. Suddenly every Aussie blogger started writing about making lilli pilli jelly (don't you just love the sound of this? I do!). Here's my revenge!
More on Lilly Pilly tree
What would a UK Christmas or a US Thanksgiving dinner be without cranberries (I'm writing these words fully conscious of their hypocrisy as I'm neither English nor American...)? Or what would a Cosmopolitan cocktail be without cranberry juice?
Cranberries are small and rare (and hardly edible when raw), but full of character.
I wonder if that made guys from The Cranberries call their band as they did?
- 2 parts lemon vodka
- 1 part triple sec
- 1 part cranberry juice
- juice of half a lime
- Mix all the ingredients.
- Garnish with a lemon twist.
- Photo source
Cranberries are also known as mossberies or fenberries
Grow your own cranberries
Cooking with elderberries will leave you with one basic dilemma - should you wait until the berries are ripe or should you start harvesting as soon as the bush flowers? The reason being - flowers are as useful as the actual berries. Elderberry flower fritters and elderberry flower cordial have always been extremely popular with all the fans of hedgerow cuisine, so sometimes waiting for the fruit to ripen may prove tricky.
Warning: unripe fruit is toxic. Wait until your berries are completely ripened, and better still - eat only when cooked. Eating small quantities of raw, ripe elderberries shouldn't harm you, but why take the risk?
Grow your own elderberries
We usually see them in dried form in health food shops - goji is another berry bursting with antioxidants, vitamin C and other beneficial ingredients. Yet, the fresh berries, particularly on a plant, are so much prettier!
Also known as wolfberries or mede berries.
Grow your own goji berries
Some berries are delicious, healthy and in all ways beneficial. Unfortunately, some other berries are poisonous and can make you very sick or even kill you. Make sure you know well which is which. Eat only those berries, which you are SURE are safe.
Or just say hi :)