8 tips for buying and using berries

August 9, 2018

Strawberry Rosemary Muffins / JillHough.com

In honor of National Farmers Market Week, which is happening right now, I’m republishing this post with new and improved photos of my amazing—no kidding—Strawberry Rosemary Muffins.

If I had to pick my favorite food of summer, it’d be hard to choose between berries, stone fruits, and tomatoes. But why go for just one? Now is the time to eat so many of each, to so sate yourself with their in-season goodness, that you won’t be tempted by a sub-par specimen in the off-season.

So then, a few tips for buying and using berries right now, during this delicious time of year.

1. Shop now.
Strawberry season is May to August (almost over!). And for blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries, it’s June to September.

2. Shop at the farmers market.
I don’t say this because I think berries are better at the farmers market, although I do. I say it because at the farmers market you can try before you buy.

3. Shop with your eyes.
Berries should be plump but firm, with intense color and no signs of dehydration or mold.

4. Shop with your nose.
When you can’t taste before buying, go by smell. Pick up a basket and give them a sniff. If they don’t smell like berries, they’re definitely not going to taste like berries.

5. Store them properly.
Berries are delicate, and the ones on the top of the basket can crush the ones on the bottom. So once you get them home, arrange your berries in a single layer in a paper towel-lined container, then refrigerate.

Strawberry Rosemary Muffins / JillHough.com

6. Don’t rinse them right away.
Berries have lots of nooks and crannies, and water lodged there can make for quicker degradation. So rinse just before using.

7. Use them right away.
Berries have a relatively short shelf life, so enjoy them quickly.

8. Buy extra and freeze them for later.
The best way to avoid sub-par berries in the winter is to have perfect summer berries in the freezer. Arrange your berries in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet, freeze them, then transfer them to a resealable bag and store the bag in the freezer—this way, the berries will be individually frozen and you can use as many or as few as you like (if you just toss them in a bag and freeze, they’ll freeze in a clump and you’ll have to use all or none). Once defrosted, your berries might be a bit mushy, so use them in places where they’d get mushy anyway, like a pie or a smoothie.

Some great ways to use berries:
In a smoothie
In a pie, muffin, scone, or cake—for example, the amazing Strawberry Rosemary Muffins you see in this post, Raspberry Vanilla Bean Scones, or Strawberry Sponge Cake
With yogurt and granola
As a dessert sauce—for example, Fresh Fruit Parfaits with Raw Sugar and Whipped Crème Fraiche
In a salad—for example, Spinach Salad with Chicken, Strawberries, Blue Cheese, and Almonds
In or over ice cream or sorbet—for example, Strawberry, Meyer Lemon, and Buttermilk Ice Cream or Berry Sorbet
In a cold soup
Infused into booze—for example, Strawberry Vodka and Tonics
In a pan sauce (sweet berries go great with savory meats and poultry)
Or just as is, for a snack

A few more summer-licious treats before it’s too late:
14 ways to enjoy cucumbers
How to pick a perfect peach
5 tips for terrific potato salad
How to make sorbet without a recipe
How to pick an amazing melon
6 delicious ways to enjoy tomatoes

What about you? What are your favorite foods of summer?

Strawberry Rosemary Muffins / JillHough.com

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10 thoughts on “8 tips for buying and using berries

  1. Riley

    Thanks for these tips! I always rinse berries as soon as I get them home, but I won’t be doing that anymore. That salad looks delicious, too!

  2. Jill Post author

    Thanks for commenting, Riley! And I looked at your site–nice! I’m a roasted potato fan as well. My current obsession is a pile of roasted potatoes with maybe some other roasted veggies–peppers, onions–with fried eggs and salsa on top. :)

  3. Pingback: How to pick an amazing melon

  4. Alison aka Ali kat

    Hi Jill. I assume you wash and dry your strawberries well before you freeze them. I have never frozen fresh strawberries, yet I often buy and use frozen strawberries when they’re not in season. I’m trying your slow roasted tomato recipe. I eat avocado, cucumber, and tomato sandwiches at least twice a week or more. Love your recipes.

  5. Deb Basham

    Hi Jill,
    I especially appreciate your comment about freezing berries in a single layer in the freezer…then placing them in a ziplock bag afterward. By doing that, they don’t come out of the freezer in a big blob…makes sense!! Thanks much!!

  6. Jill Post author

    Belated thanks for your comment, Deb! That trick for freezing strawberries works for any small bits of anything that you want to freeze, but you don’t want to freeze in a blob. I do it a lot with grilled vegetables, like bell pepper strips, onion wedges, or slices of eggplant, so later I can grab a few, defrost, and then throw them on a pizza or in a sandwich. (I’ve got all kinds of pizza toppings squirreled away in the freezer!) Thanks again for stopping by!

  7. Jill Post author

    Thanks for stopping by, Ali! And yes, I’d gently wash and dry berries before using them (but confess to sometimes skipping the washing altogether). How did the roasted tomatoes turn out? And I love your sandwich recipe–yummo!

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