Berry season is just around the corner! Bright hues and delicious flavors aren’t all that these little gems provide.
Benefits of Berries: As if their sweet, juicy taste weren’t enough to make them a fantastic treat, berries are also a great source of dietary fiber and a variety of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that may help prevent cancer and heart disease. A study of 72 middle-aged men and women published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that eating about 1 C of mixed berries each day for eight weeks increased good, HDL cholesterol and lowered blood pressure, and a recent review of research with blueberries reported that they may prevent cancer cell growth. Although further research is needed to confirm these findings, scientists believe that plant pigments called anthocyanins, which are found in berries, may be responsible for their potential health benefits.
Pick Your Own: Visit a local “u-pick” farm, and gather your favorites! Look for strawberries from late May to mid-June, blueberries from late June to mid-July, blackberries from mid-July to mid-August and red raspberries in August and September. You’ll spend a few calories, too: one hour of walking and picking fruit burns about 200 calories for a 150 lb person.
Stock Up and Enjoy: The season for fresh, locally grown berries is short, but fortunately, they freeze well. Follow these tips to ensure the berries freeze properly. First, sort them. Discard those that are bruised, and remove stems and leaves. Rinse them in a colander, and allow them to air dry completely. Spread them onto a jelly roll pan, and place it in a freezer for about 1 hour, or until the berries are slightly frozen. Transfer them to a freezer-safe, zip top bag, and freeze them for 6 months. To use frozen berries in baking, dust them with a bit of the flour you’ve measured out to use in the recipe, and fold them frozen into the batter just before baking. This keeps them from sinking to the bottom of the batter and discoloring it. To serve frozen fruit in a salad, spread the fruit onto a plate, and partially thaw in the refrigerator for 6-8 hours. Add the fruit to the salad and serve while it is still slightly frozen to avoid a soggy texture.
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Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 Feb;87(2):323-31.
Anticancer Agents Med Chem. 2013 Jan 24.