Berry Facts & Recipes


by Joan Bestwick


Berry Facts

            Blackberries are in season from July to the first part of October. They are black, long and slender, with hard seeds and very tasty. They are cultivated, but also grow in the wild. Blackberries have 84 calories per cup, and are full of potassium, Vitamin A and C and also have 46 mg of calcium per cup. To freeze, spread the berries in a single layer on the cookie sheet and freeze solid. Transfer frozen berries to plastic bags.  They can also be canned following canner directions.

            Blueberries are a relative of the cranberry and are native to the United States. Blueberries were probably the first snack food consumed in North America. Native Americans used to sun dry and smoke them to store them for the winter months. It is also related to the European bilberry and whortleberry. When looking for blueberries, they should be firm and dry.  The skin should be smooth and deep purple-blue. Fresh blueberries can be stored from 10 and 14 days and they need to be washed before serving.  Blueberries have 80 calories per cup. Blueberries provide about 5 grams of fiber per cup and are a source of Vitamin C. To freeze, spread the berries in a single layer on the cookie sheet and freeze solid. Transfer frozen berries to plastic bags. They can also be canned or dehydrated per directions.

            Cranberries peak months for picking are September through January. Fresh cranberries can be put in a freezer bag and thrown in the freezer just the way they are. To use frozen cranberries, rinse in cold water and drain or partially thaw in the refrigerator. One pound of fresh berries measures 4 cups and makes about 1 quart of whole-berry or jellied sauce.  Cranberries grow on a slender, trailing North American shrub. The shrub grows in damp ground and bears a tart red berry. The berries are the edible part of the plant. Cranberries have 46 calories per cup. Cranberries have Vitamin A and C.

            Raspberries are a fruit that is closely related to the blackberry and loganberry. The fruit is of native European bush, usually red, occasionally white or black. It is renowned for its delicate flavor.  Raspberries are ripe when they slip off the stem into your hand without resistance. During hot weather pick raspberries everyday or they will become overripe. Wait until the morning dew has disappeared before picking them. Dry fruit is less perishable than wet. When buying raspberries, avoid red-stained containers, they indicate overripe, wet fruit. Black raspberries or black caps are sweet and aromatic. They are full of Vitamin C and potassium.

            Store berries in small shallow containers so that the weight of the top berries doesn’t crush those underneath. To wash raspberries, place them in a colander and submerge twice in a sink full of cold water. Drain well. To freeze, coat a cookie sheet with a fine layer of non-stick spray, spread the berries in a single layer on the cookie sheet and freeze solid. Transfer frozen berries to plastic bags. For fresh tasting raspberries, thaw 1 pint of frozen berries in a syrupy solution of 2 cups water to 1/2 cup sugar. Drain and use immediately. Raspberries have 64 calories per cup. They are full of potassium, Vitamins A and B6.  Strawberries are a small fruit that is ground grown. They were eaten in Italy over 2000 years ago. Refrigerate fresh strawberries in shallow ventilated containers as soon as you pick them. Only wash the berries in cold water when you are ready to use them. Do not allow the berries to soak.

            Strawberries stored with the stems stay firm longer than those without stems. They will stay fresh for several days if you put fresh, unwashed berries in a container and top with a folded napkin. Cover the container and turn it upside-down and store in the refrigerator. Remove any bruised or damaged berries as soon as possible. To freeze whole berries, spread the berries in a single layer on the cookie sheet and freeze solid. Transfer frozen berries to plastic bags. You can freeze strawberries with or without sugar or in a sugar syrup. Strawberries have 48 calories per cup. They are full of Vitamin C and potassium.



Berry Recipes

Blackberry-Pecan Pie

Pastry for a single pie crust, pre-baked

4 cups fresh or frozen blackberries

1 cup sugar

1/3 cup quick cooking tapioca

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon


Pecan topping:

1/2 cup flour

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup cold butter

1/4 cup finely chopped pecans


Preheat oven to 375°. In a medium saucepan, combine the blackberries, sugar, tapioca and cinnamon. Cook, stirring over medium heat until mixture starts to bubble. Reduce heat and simmer the berry filling, uncovered for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Pour the berry filling into the pie crust. Top with pecan topping. Topping: In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar and mix well. Cut the butter into flour mixture until crumbly. Add the pecans and stir gently.


Spiced Blueberry Jam

1-1/2 quarts blueberries

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon cloves

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon allspice

1 package (1-3/4 oz.) powder fruit pectin

5 cups sugar


Sterilize 8 (6-ounce) jelly jars; keep them in hot water until ready to fill. Wash and drain blueberries. Puree the blueberries in a blender or food processor. You need 1-quart of puree. In a large pan combine puree, lemon juice, cloves, cinnamon, allspice, and fruit pectin, stir to mix well. Over high heat, bring mixture to a full rolling boil; boil 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add sugar all at once. Again bring to a rolling boil; boil 1 minute, stirring constantly. Skim off the foam on the top of the jam. Ladle into hot, sterilized jelly jars and seal.


Cranberry Chocolate Ice Cream

2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries

1/2 cup orange juice

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1 quart vanilla ice cream, softened

3/4 cup semisweet mini chocolate chips


In a medium saucepan over medium heat, cook cranberries and orange juice until the cranberries pop, about 8-10 minutes. Put this mixture into a blender and add almond extract. Coarsely chop in the blender for 3 to 5 minutes. Place this mixture in the freezer for 10 minutes. Place softened ice cream in a large bowl, fold in cranberry mixture and chocolate chips. Serve immediately or frozen.



From Life’s Little Berry Cookbook: 101 Berry Recipes by Joan Bestwick. Copyright © 2000 by Avery Color Studios, Inc. Excerpted by arrangement with the publisher. $11.95. Available in local bookstores or call 800-722-9925 or click here.