Bring on the Berries

Summer is the season of berries! These juicy little pops of sweetness are amazing when added to dishes, smoothies, desserts, or simply eaten on their own. Typically in season in June and July (and sometimes a bit earlier or later depending on the berry), you and your little chefs have plenty of time to explore and enjoy this summer treat.

Here’s a bit about some of the most popular summer berries and a few ideas on how you and your little chef can use them.

 Blackberries

If you like the musical Hairspray, you’ve no doubt belted out the line, “The darker the berry, the sweeter the juice.” Blackberries are, indeed, quite sweet, but the darkness of the berry also indicates another huge benefit: large quantities of antioxidants. Blackberries also contain tannins, which fight inflammation and can even help alleviate sore throats.

You and your little chef will be most successful at finding blackberries on sale during their peak season in June and July. Because of their color and size, blackberries are fun to use in decorating food and easy for even the littlest fingers to grasp. Plus, they’re great for making fruit animals! You can use blackberries as the arms and legs of a panda bear, the wool of black sheep, or the stripes on a zebra (banana makes a great “white” compliment fruit for your edible animal creations). Blackberries are also excellent atop yogurt or blended into smoothies.

Blueberries

Arándano, bosbes, myrtille. In any language, blueberries are delicious and good for your health. These petite blue beauties contain lots of fiber, vitamin C, potassium, and vitamin B6 that are good for you and your little chef.  Blueberries are in season in most of the U.S. from mid-June to mid-August. Many farms host blueberry picking events, so check your area. Blueberries are great add-ins and add-ons. Your little chef can mix them into pancake batter or muffin mix. She can sprinkle them on top of cereal and salads, or he can blend them into smoothies.

Black Currants

These lesser known black-colored berries are native to cold climates like Siberia and northern Europe. Despite their small size, they contain a great deal body-building elements, such as iron, copper, and protein.

Currants are typically available from late spring through the early winter months, and they peak in June and July. Because currants have been grown in Great Britain for centuries, you and your little chef can find great British recipes to try, like black currant jam, crumble, sorbet, and compote.

 Loganberries

The loganberry is actually a hybrid plant: it’s a cross between a blackberry and a raspberry. It was first grown in California, and its peak season is in the mid-summer months. The deep red coloring and sweet-tart taste make this berry an enticing one for kids to try. The list of nutrients packed into this little berry is a long one, including fiber, calcium, protein, and vitamins A, B, C, and K.

You and your little chef can use loganberries in much the same ways as its parents, raspberry and blackberry. It can be canned, jammed, and put into pies or cakes. If your child is a berry fan, try introducing this new, yet familiar berry this season.

Raspberries

These tart, soft little berries require delicate handling, but are worth all the extra caution. Raspberries come into season in mid-summer and contain large quantities of fiber, vitamin C, and even some protein.

Raspberries are great for baking tasty treats such as cupcakes, crumbles, tarts, and crisps. They can also be blended up into smoothies or mousse, or act as toppings for cakes, pies, and ice cream. Raspberries are a naturally great pairing with chocolate.

If you’re looking to feature raspberries in healthier ways, you can dip them in a low-fat yogurt and freeze them for a fun snack, or you can sprinkle them on top of a salad. And let’s not overlook the most obvious option: put them in a big bowl and enjoy each one in its simple sweetness.

 Strawberries

Summer = strawberries. It’s true that you can buy strawberries all year round, but there’s nothing better than picking your own pints or stacking them up in your cart when they’re on sale all summer.

Strawberries are a favorite among little chefs for their sweet and juicy flavor, but parents can love them too for their nutritional benefits. Strawberries are full of vitamin C and fiber. Moms should help themselves as well: studies have shown that eating three cups of strawberries or blueberries each week can reduce women’s risk of heart attack.

Strawberries are also an easy fruit for your little chef to handle and manage. Using a child-safe knife, your little chef can be in charge of slicing the tops off the berries and cutting them into halves or fourths. Perfect strawberry slices are delicious on top of an English muffin with cream cheese or as the main ingredient in a fruit salad.

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