Berries are one of the joys of summer. Growing up in Connecticut, we had a wonderful raspberry bush in our front yard. It was huge and delivered succulent, but very tender raspberries, at the height of summer. They were so fragile that even gentle picking sometimes crushed them. No matter–they still tasted great.
These days, berries are available year-round. To my taste buds, the summer berry bounty is still the best and a reminder of those front-yard harvests. Trouble is that even in season, berries are pricey. They also don’t last long and it is frustrating to find them covered with fuzz or mold before they can be eaten.
So I have experimented a little with ways to keep berries fresh longer. Mostly, it has involved using nature’s preservative: citrus fruit, rich in ascorbic acid–also known as vitamin C. Nobel laureate Linus Pauling showed that vitamin C has its own health benefits. (Find The Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University offers a valuable micronutrient site, packed with information about vitamins, minerals and other healthy substances.)
In my tests, lime juice was often too tart; grapefruit a bit tangy. But the juice of a half lemon sweetened with a dab of honey seems just right. It has extended the shelf-life of berries by a few days—and stretched our food budget. That means we are eating more berries this summer—rather than throwing them out.
That’s a good thing. Berries are naturally low in calories and provide fiber—an ingredient that most of us fall short on eating, according to the US Department of Agriculture (which is also the source of the photo above.) More fiber helps foster feeling full after eating—a fact that can help cut calories consumed. Fiber also seems to help lower blood cholesterol levels—especially the most dangerous kind—and it may help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Growing scientific evidence underscores why berries of all hues earn “super fruit” status. Among the wide range of benefits: blueberries appear to reduce cognitive decline in older adults. They may also help muscles recover better after exercise. The anthocyanins found in blueberries, strawberries and raspberries appear to have anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties. Plus, they may be able to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. Besides, they taste great. How can you beat all that?