Berries are in season now and consider organic only, since you cannot peel them. Many are on the ewg’s Dirty Dozen list that a posted a few days ago.
(Berry Nice Juicy-Fruit Salad topped with whipped ricotta cheese and slivered almonds. See recipe below.)
Did you ever notice how few foods in the fruit and vegetable kingdom are blue? In looking through the World’s Healthiest Food list, taken from the George Mateljan Foundation (whfoods.org), I could find only blueberries. Not on the list is blue corn, although it is made into a popular natural foods snack, blue corn chips.)
Blackberries are another fruit whose color is very dark, almost like a deep purple. There are more purple foods than blue, but both colors are scarcer than red foods. These are more predominant in nature, starting with apples and cranberries and continuing with red peppers and tomatoes. But my favorite red fruit this time of year is raspberries. Actually, the color of raspberries is also unique, not really pink and not really red. Maybe the unique colors of these berries are what makes them so interesting to try.
Maybe my love of blueberries comes from my childhood memory of picking wild blueberries (also called huckleberries) with my Great Aunt Molly, who made delicious huckleberry jam. While I disliked walking up and down the hot mountain path looking for the berries, I loved the jam! And when I worked as a bed & breakfast cook in Maine a few years ago, I used to pick fresh blackberries from a bush in the yard next to the house. For everyone five berries I picked, I must have eaten one. My breakfast really was al fresco! As for red raspberries, I simply love them for no other reason than they seem to melt in my mouth.
In general, berries are good foods to incorporate into your daily diet. They are considered nutraceuticals, which are foods or parts of foods that have above average health benefits. (Source: Oregon Blackberry and Raspberry Commission) According to the commission, the healthful properties apply to all of their Oregon berries: red raspberries, black raspberries, Evergreen blackberries, Marionberries, and Boysenberries. (I don’t know what some of these different berries taste like, but I thought I would include them in case you see them in the market.)
According to the World’s Healthiest Foods Site, blueberries are packed with antioxidant phytonutrients, which are nutrients from the plant kingdom. Antioxidants neutralize damage to cells, and in the case of blueberries, they support the cells that, if damaged, can lead to cataracts, glaucoma, varicose veins, hemorrhoids, peptic ulcers, heart disease and cancer. Anthocyanins, the blue-red pigment in blueberries, improve the integrity of support structures in the vascular system, enhance the effects of Vitamin C, and improve capillary integrity by preventing free-radical damage.
Free radicals do damage because they are very unstable and react quickly with other compounds, trying to capture the needed electron to gain stability. Generally, free radicals attack the nearest stable molecule, “stealing” its electron. When the “attacked” molecule loses its electron, it becomes a free radical itself, beginning a chain reaction. Once the process is started, it can cascade, finally resulting in the disruption of a living cell. (Source: www.healthchecksystems.com)
Concerning blackberries, the berries and juice build the blood, which means they could be used to treat anemia. But in Healing with the Herbs of Life, the authors caution not to overdo blackberries, as they can cause loose bowels. Blueberries, red raspberries, and blackberries are good sources of vitamin A and potassium. Also, blackberries and raspberries are on the list of high fiber foods. However, since berries cannot be peeled or scrubbed, I urge you to purchase them organically grown.
Have I convinced you of the importance of including organic berries in your diet? I hope so, because they are good for you and they taste delicious when ripe. In fact, they fall under my heading of The Good Taste of Health Recipes. Below are some very berry nice GToH recipes to whet your summer appetite.
VERY BERRY SMOOTHIE (VEGAN if using non-dairy liquid)
One cup cold liquid (milk or milk substitute or juice)
One to two scoops of protein powder
1/2-1 cup of organic berries, washed
vanilla or almond extract (optional)
Place all the ingredients in a blender and buzz until smooth. Enjoy immediately.
Feel free to use any of your favorite berries in season. If fresh berries are not available organically grown, consider frozen ones without sugar, such as the berry mix from Cascadia Farms.
BERRY NICE JUICY-FRUIT SALAD (Gluten-Free & can be Vegan)
2 cups of organic mixed berries in season, washed and drained
two organic peaches, washed, cut, and pitted
two organic kiwis, peeled and sliced
yogurt, ricotta cheese, or whipped cream for topping (Or vegan sub.)
dried, toasted coconut or slivered almonds
juice as needed
1. Make sure all the fruit has been washed, pitted when necessary, and cut into bite-sized pieces, if needed. (Ex. peaches)
2. Place in an attractive bowl and add a very little of your favorite juice, such as cranberry or pomegranate.
3. Serve with a dollop of yogurt or ricotta cheese or a spritz of whipped cream (my choice!)
4. Top with slivered almonds or unsweetened coconut.
BLUEBERRY MUFFINS* (Vegan if liquid is not milk)
One cup Organic Yellow Corn Meal (I used Arrowhead Mills)
One cup whole wheat, unbleached white, or gluten-free flour
1 tsp. aluminum-free baking powder
1/2 tsp. sea salt (optional)
one cup liquid (whey, milk, milk substitute, or juice such as orange or apple)
2 eggs or 1/2 cup liquid egg sub. (I used egg whites)
2 Tbl. maple syrup
3 Tbl. vegetable oil and extra oil for muffin tins (I used Macadamia oil)
one cup organic blueberries+, washed with any stems removed.
DIRECTIONS (Preheat oven at 350 degrees)
1. Mix dry ingredients together in one large bowl.
2. Mix wet ingredients in a smaller bowl.
3. Add wet items to dry ingredients and combine well.
4. Pour into mini-muffin tins or regular size muffin tins that have been oiled.
5. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 25-35 minutes, depending on the size of your muffin openings in the tin. Use a toothpick or kabob stick to check for doneness.
Yield: About 20 mini-muffins or 9-10 regular-sized muffins. Serve with organic wild berry jam. I purchased an organic fruit spread from Bionaturae, which contains organic wild berries and no extra sugar. REMEMBER, these are muffins, not cupcakes, so they wonâ€™t be sweet.
* This recipe is an adaptation from the recipe on the bag of Arrowhead Mills Organic Yellow Corn Meal
+NOTE: I suggest washing the blueberries and then freezing them for a couple of hours, so your muffins don’t turn that eerie blue that blueberry bagels have. Of course, if you love really blue blueberry muffins, you can choose not to freeze the berries and also use blue corn meal, available in health food stores and supermarkets that carry specialty grains in their natural foods section. (Wegman’s has a special gluten-free section where these grains are available.)
Next posting maybe delayed because of July 4th weekend activities. If so, I will “blog” you in two weeks.