Strawberries, blueberries and physalises – everything you need to know about berries
Summer is the season of berries with colourful punnets on display everywhere at local markets. Are there any you haven’t tried yet? Refresh your berry know-how with our quickfire guide.
Strawberries – the season’s starter
Strawberries are the first berries to come into season and are readily available from May. But botanically speaking, they’re not actually a berry at all. Unlike berries, strawberries have their seeds on the outside meaning they’re classed as “aggregate fruits”. Do we care? Absolutely not! These juicy red fruits top the global berry charts so look out for a pick-your-own farm near you. Nobody will mind you sampling a few while you pick.
Gooseberries – the longer lasting one
Green and red gooseberries come into season from mid-July. Beneath a firm, slightly translucent skin is the juicy flesh. Despite the name, this berry has nothing to do with geese. It’s thought “goose” is actually derived from the German “kraus”, which means “fuzzy”. You can eat them straight after picking, or pop them in a fridge to allow them to ripen and then make a batch of gooseberry jam.
Blueberries – the bakers’ favourite
Blueberries are some of the smallest berries and regarded as a superfood. Their sweet flavour means they’re a popular choice for desserts, baking and snacking. Blueberry cheesecake is one example. Their rich bluish-purple colour means they look just as good as they taste.
Red currants – the gardener’s treat
The summer solstice is a good indication that these berries are in season. The small red berries are often used as a glamorous garnish for cocktails. Red currants are better for snacking than black currants as they’re sweeter. But both taste delicious in smoothies, jams or with yoghurt.
Cranberries – the snack guru
Cranberries were brought to Europe from North America and are usually eaten dried. Their distinctly sour flavour means they’re rarely consumed fresh, but once dried and sweetened they develop a tangy flavour. Scatter these crimson red berries over muesli or salads, or simply snack on them at your desk. You’ll find them in your supermarket’s dried fruits section.
Elderberries – the last of the summer berries
Once summer draws to a close you can harvest these bluish-black berries and make them into juice, jam or cordial. They’re too bitter to be eaten raw, but when sugar is added they develop an intense aroma. The deep violet colour contrasts effectively with dairy-based desserts like rice pudding, vanilla ice cream and yoghurt.
Physalises – the exotic cousin
These exotic berries arrive in winter, usually from South America or, as the name suggests, from South Africa. A delicate, lantern-like shell conceals a plump golden berry with a fruity, floral flavour. Pop it straight in your mouth and savour!