Berries are the crown jewels of summer fruit. Boasting vibrant hues and delicate textures, these gems are particularly delicious during their fleeting window of peak-season perfection. In most parts of the country, mid-June through July is the ideal time to enjoy what these nourishing fruits have to offer.
And it’s a lot. Berries are packed with folate, vitamin C, and other vital nutrients, as well as soluble fiber, which helps regulate blood sugar and improve digestion. They also contain high levels of anti-inflammatory anthocyanins, powerful flavonoids that reduce cellular oxidative stress.
Though naturally sweet, berries aren’t just for dessert: Tart raspberries and blackberries, sweet strawberries, and mild blueberries can round out the fresh flavors in a mixed-green salad or provide a pleasantly acidic counterpoint to salty, savory, or herbaceous dishes.
- Look for dry and firm berries — and avoid juice-stained containers, which can be a sign of bruised fruit.
- Buy organic whenever you can. Conventionally grown strawberries top the Environmental Working Group (EWG) Dirty Dozen list and are contaminated with some eight different pesticides on average. Blueberries and raspberries appear farther down EWG’s expanded list of produce that carries pesticide residue.
- Bathe berries to eliminate spores and bacteria and to slow mold growth: Soak for five minutes in a solution of one part white vinegar to three parts water; rinse with cool water in a colander. Spread berries on a baking sheet and pat dry with a paper towel.
- Refrigerate berries for four to 10 days. Place dry berries in a resealable container lined with paper towels, keeping the lid partially open to avoid trapping moisture.
- Prep for freezer storage by spreading dry berries on a baking sheet in a single layer and then freezing until solid. (This prevents berries from sticking together.) Transfer to recloseable bags or containers and store for up to six months.
- Use berries on their last legs for roasting or cooking into a compote.
Arugula-Fennel Salad With Berries and Lemony Balsamic Vinaigrette
Makes four servings | Prep time 20 minutes
For the Salad
- 1/4 cup sliced almonds
- 4 cups tightly packed baby arugula
- 1 cup thinly sliced fennel bulb
- 1 cup raspberries
- 1 cup blueberries
- 2 tbs. chopped fresh basil or mint
- 3 tbs. crumbled feta cheese
- Place a small skillet over low heat. Add almonds and toast, stirring often, until slightly golden and nutty smelling, about two minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Put the arugula, fennel, berries, and mint or basil in a large bowl, and toss gently to combine.
- Drizzle about 6 tablespoons of the vinaigrette over salad and toss again. Divide into bowls, scatter feta and toasted almonds on top, and serve.
For the Lemony Balsamic Vinaigrette
- 2 tbs. balsamic vinegar
- 2 tbs. freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/2 tsp. grated lemon zest
- 1/2 tsp. sea salt
- 1/2 tsp. black pepper
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Combine all ingredients and whisk until thoroughly blended.
Tip: Store leftover dressing in a glass jar in the refrigerator for up to one week.
Lemon-Blueberry Quinoa Tabbouleh
Makes four servings | Prep time 10 minutes, plus time to cook quinoa
- 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, plus more to taste
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp. grated lemon zest
- Sea salt to taste
- 1 cup cooked quinoa*
- 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh mint
- 1 cup fresh blueberries
*Find a simple quinoa recipe at “Quinoa: The Super Seed.”
- Place the lemon juice, olive oil, lemon zest, and salt in a small bowl and whisk to combine.
- Add the dressing to the quinoa, along with the parsley and mint, and fluff with a fork until well combined.
- Add the blueberries and gently toss. Taste; you may want to add another squeeze of lemon juice or another pinch of salt. Serve chilled or at room temperature.
Tip: The bright tastes of the mint and lemon complement the mild flavor of the blueberries in this tabbouleh.
Grilled Pork Tenderloin With Blackberry Compote
Makes four servings | Prep time 25 minutes | Cook time 15 to 20 minutes, plus 10 minutes resting time
- 1 pork tenderloin (1 to 1 1/2 lb.)
- 1 tsp. sea salt
- 1 tsp. fennel seeds, crushed
- 1/2 tsp. ground pepper
- 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
- 1 tbs. olive oil
- 1/2 cup Blackberry Compote
- Using a thin, sharp knife, trim the pork tenderloin of any silver skin (a thin layer of silver-white connective tissue) and surface fat.
- Combine the salt, fennel seeds, pepper, and coriander. Rub the tenderloin with the olive oil and then the spice mixture.
- Heat a grill to medium-high.
- Place the tenderloin over direct heat and close the grill. Cook five to seven minutes per side (turn only once), until the internal temperature reaches 140 to 145 degrees F. Move the pork away from the direct heat if it starts to char.
- Remove tenderloin from the grill and transfer to a cutting board. Tent with foil and allow the tenderloin to rest for 10 minutes.
- Thinly slice the tenderloin crosswise and serve with the Blackberry Compote.
For the Blackberry Compote
- 1 1/2 cups blackberries (frozen or fresh)
- 1 tsp. freshly squeezed orange or lemon juice
- 1 tsp. grated orange or lemon zest
- 1 tsp. maple syrup
- 1/4 tsp. ground ginger
- Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat.
- Cook, stirring occasionally, for three to four minutes, until the mixture bubbles, pulls away from the sides of the pan, and becomes syrupy.
Tip: Compote is typically made by cooking fruit in a sugar syrup. This recipe relies on the fruit’s natural juices — plus just a bit of maple syrup and orange juice — for sweetness.
Nectarine and Blueberry Crisp
Makes six servings | Prep time 30 minutes |
Cook time 40 minutes
For the filling
- 8 nectarines, unpeeled and sliced into 1/2-inch-thick wedges
- 3 cups blueberries
- 1/4 tsp. sea salt
- Pinch ground cinnamon
For the topping
- 3 1/2 cups granola
- 1/3 cup coconut oil, ghee, or butter, melted
- 1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
- 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. sea salt
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- Make the filling: Combine the nectarines, blueberries, salt, and cinnamon in a large bowl, and toss until the fruit is well coated. Transfer the fruit mixture to a 2-quart baking dish or a 10-inch pie plate.
- Make the topping: Combine the granola, oil, coconut, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl, and stir well. Spoon the topping evenly over the filling; lightly press with your fingers until the fruit is covered and the dish is full.
- Bake for about 40 minutes, until the topping is golden and the filling is bubbly. Let cool for at least 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Tip: Use whatever stone fruits and berries you have on hand: Try substituting peaches for nectarines, and blackberries or raspberries for blueberries.
Roasted Strawberries With Mint
Makes four servings | Prep time 15 minutes | Cook time 90 minutes
- 2 tbs. maple syrup
- 1 tbs. balsamic vinegar (optional)
- 1 1/2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 tsp. sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cups whole strawberries, hulled
- 2 tsp. thinly sliced fresh mint
- Preheat oven to 250 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Put the maple syrup, balsamic vinegar if using, olive oil, salt, and a few grinds of pepper in a large bowl, and whisk to combine. Add the strawberries and stir gently until the strawberries are well coated.
- Spread the strawberries on the lined baking sheet in a single layer, and drizzle the liquid from the bowl over the strawberries. Bake for about 90 minutes, until the strawberries are about half their original size, stirring and redistributing them halfway through the baking time. Let cool for five minutes, then transfer the berries and any remaining juices to a bowl.
- Gently stir in the mint, then let sit for five minutes for the flavors to meld. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Serving suggestion: Serve strawberries alone in a dish, or layer with yogurt in a parfait glass.
This originally appeared as “Summer Berries” in the July/August 2018 print issue of Experience Life.