Jane Feldman Photography
Life is berry tasty in the Hudson Valley
Berries are a big business for wholesale, retail and u-pick farms in New York state. Nationally New York ranks in the top ten for strawberry production, which accounts for more than $7 million in revenues. Blueberries bring in an estimated $2 million yearly and another $2 million comes from other berry production. Three nutrient packed berries that continue to gain in popularity in New York include Currants, Aronia, and Sea Buckthorn. The berry season in New York is fairly short – from about May to the end of July.
Surprising is the number of fruits and vegetables that are and are not technically considered berries. Blueberries and cranberries are not scientifically true berries. Botanical berries include tomatoes, grapes, avocados, guavas, chili peppers, and persimmons. Blackberries, raspberries and boysenberries are not technically berries but are actually considered what is known as aggregate fruit.
Berries are most often classified as any small sweet, juicy and brightly-colored fruit. Berry colors are pigments, and are where the nutritional supplements, such as flavonoids, polyphenols, anthocyanins, tannins, and antioxidants, are concentrated.
Some buying tips from New York berry growers:
Gently Clean. When you are ready to eat the berries, line a bowl with a colander and fill it with water. Dip the berries into the water and gently stir. Lift the colander out of the water and remove the berries. Gently pat the berries dry with a paper towel.
Buy berries that are glossy, plump and the deepest shade of their type.
Moldy berries taste bad. Don’t buy containers of berries that have even the slightest touch of mold. A few moldy berries can make all the berries around them taste like mold. Also, they’ll make the whole batch mold much faster.
When you buy berries, spread them out on paper towels and discard any that are crushed.
Store the berries unwashed between paper towels.
When, how and what to do with popular berry varieties
Blackberries – Blackberries are usually ripe around June. They are very tart and make great pies and preserves.
Strawberries – Strawberries are typically the first berries to hit the farm stands in the late spring and early summer. Wash strawberries as minimally as possible and as close to eating as possible. Also don’t remove the caps until you are ready to eat them. Removing the caps shortens their shelf life. Strawberries obviously go well with cream but other interesting pairings include red wine and orange. Strawberries dry well, freeze well and make great puree. They aren’t as suitable for canning as other berries. Strawberry juice from a commercial juicer is delicious.
Gooseberries – Gooseberries are a very round berry and are typically as big or bigger than large blueberries. Some varieties may be more oval in shape and the size of some varieties can be as large as a quail egg. Varietal colors range from white, gold, purple-red, burgundy, rose and the ever-common green. They are usually available from June to August. When they are perfectly ripe gooseberries can be eaten out of hand but they are typically cooked with some sugar and make great puddings, tarts, and pies. Gooseberries freeze well and make delicious preserves.
Blueberries – Blueberries are usually ready around June and are sweet enough to be eaten out of hand. They make great pies and preserves and can be dried like raisins. Pick plump dark berries that have a whitish film. The film or “bloom” preserves the moisture in the blueberries and helps extend their shelf life.
Currants – There are many varieties of currants – black, red, white, and yellow. They are extremely tart and are most often cooked. They make great preserves but their hard seeds make it necessary to strain the cooked pulp.
Farms that are great places to get delicious berries:
Love Apple Farm
1421 Route 9H Ghent, NY 12075
5 Sunset Avenue Kinderhook, NY 12106
The Berry Farm
2304 Route 203 Chatham, NY
Thompson Finch Farm
750 Wiltsie Bridge Road Ancramdale, NY
223 Pitcher Lane Red Hook, NY
3007 Route 20 Hudson, NY 12534