Above the Mason-Dixon line, berry season has finally arrived. Whether you’re serving them with ice cream or yogurt, baking a pie, or just eating them straight out of the container, here’s how to pick the perfect pint.
1. Juicy is good.
The juicier the berry, the more flavorful it will be. Berries grown to be sold in grocery stores are bred for firmness and a tougher skin, which means they’re usually less juicy than strawberries sold straight from the farm or farm stand. Contrary to popular belief, bigger strawberries are not necessarily juicier, and often have thicker skins than smaller varieties.
2. You can’t judge a berry by its shape.
A pint of perfect-looking strawberries that are all the same shape might look scrumptious, but your taste buds may not agree. Berries meant to stand up to being transported great distances from farm to supermarket are bred to be big, hearty and homogenous in shape. But those qualities don’t usually add up to great flavor. Instead, the smaller, juicier, imperfectly shaped berries grown by smaller farms are often the tastiest.
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3. The darker the berry, the sweeter the juice.
This old chestnut is actually true. Darker berries are generally riper, sweeter, and contain more health-boosting antioxidants than lighter ones.
4. A ripe berry doesn’t keep.
Berries taste best and are better for you when they’re allowed to ripen on the vine. But most varieties of berries will only last a couple of days when ripe. So plan to eat, use or freeze them right away (if they haven’t already been devoured before you get home).
5. Wait before washing.
Washing berries before storing them will cause them to rot sooner. Store berries loosely packed in a container in the refrigerator and wash them just before serving or eating. To intensify their flavor, bring berries to room temperature before serving.