How has your summer been? It's been quite crazy for me lately. Take a deep breath and feast on these beautiful berry photos and recipes. The words and recipes are by my friend Teri Bell, aka Miss Sophie, who writes weekly food column on Savannah Morning News and photos by yours truly.
Last week I noticed something red on the berm behind our house. Much to my delight, it was a thorny bush with soon to be blackberries growing wild. There were already two or three tiny ripe ones, which I quickly washed off and shared with Steve.
Eating that blackberry took me back to summer afternoons when my best friend, Robert, and I would venture into the field behind his house navigating our way through the brush and thorny bushes in pursuit of big wild blackberries. We didn’t worry about washing them, we picked and consumed all at the same time until we couldn’t find any more or we had our fill.
Mama said that when she was a little girl, she and Aunt Jenny would walk along the side of the road picking blackberries until they got enough for grandma to make them a blackberry pie. I guess Robert and I missed out not sharing our blackberries with grandma — we might have gotten a pie, too!
I don’t know if it is because I don’t walk down the side of the road or if it is just because I now live in the “big city,” but I don’t see wild blackberries much anymore. The ones behind my house were the first in a long time and these were tiny. I remember the blackberries in the field being big, fat and delicious! Today when I see the sticker price of blackberries, I can’t help but think of all those I consumed for free! If only I had known what a goldmine there was in that field.
Pricey or not, we should all invest in some berries on a regular basis. Turns out they are not only good — they are good for you! Berries are very high in antioxidants. For those of you, like me, who have always secretly wondered exactly what “high in antioxidants” means, I looked it up. The short version: Our atmosphere is full of “free radicals.” When these radicals come together they produce a reaction. Some reactions are good, but some can cause cell damage that can result in cancer and other diseases. Oxidation produces free radicals. Antioxidants inhibit oxidation. Foods are measured for their antioxidant level by their “oxygen radical absorbance capacity” or ORAC. The higher the ORAC, the better the food is for you. These foods absorb radicals therefore eliminating the possibility of a reaction. Now that’s all clear — right?
One way to fight the high price of berries and boost your ability to fight off free radicals is to purchase them when in season, as they are now, and freeze them for use later in the year. It is so simple to do! Wash and drain the berries. Spread berries out on a sheet pan and allow to air dry for 15 or 20 minutes. Place the pan in the freezer. Once frozen, transfer berries to a freezer bag. Write the name and the date on the freezer bag and toss into the freezer. Frozen berries are great to use in smoothies and require no thawing.
Berries don’t have to be laden in sugar to be enjoyed and are great in a salad, like a Raspberry Avocado Salad, but berries do make some of the best desserts! I wonder if I bury the berries in sugar and dough, if they lose their oxygen radical absorbance capacity? I’ve always heard that in some cases “ignorance is bliss.” I’ve decided this is one of those times.
1 package (6 ounces or 1 1/3 cup) Driscoll’s Raspberries
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
1 1/4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/4 cups olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 pounds cooked whole shrimp or grilled chicken strips
1/4 cups diced mango
1 tablespoon thinly sliced red onion
4 cups baby spinach leaves or spring mix
2 avocados, halved, pitted and sliced
Blend 1/3 cup raspberries, vinegar, honey and Dijon mustard in a blender or food processor until smooth. Drizzle in the oil while blending. Add 1 or 2 tablespoons water to thin slightly, if needed. Season with salt and pepper. Combine shrimp or chicken, mango, and onion in a medium bowl. Gently stir in remaining raspberries. Divide lettuce onto four plates and arrange avocado slices on top of lettuce. Top with raspberry mixture and drizzle the dressing on top. Serve with any remaining dressing on the side.
2 cups self-rising white cornmeal
1/2 cup sugar
5 large eggs
1 (16-ounce) container sour cream
1/2 cup butter, melted
2 cups fresh or frozen blackberries
Preheat oven to 450 F. Stir together cornmeal and sugar in a large bowl; make a well in center of mixture. Whisk together eggs, sour cream, and butter; add to cornmeal, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened. Fold in blackberries. Spoon batter into two lightly greased 12-cup muffin pans, filling three-fourths full. Allow to sit 3 or 4 minutes. Bake at 450 F for 15 to 17 minutes or until tops are golden brown. Cool in pan on a wire rack 5 minutes.
I can’t talk about berries without sharing this simple recipe again!
1 can crushed pineapple, 20 ounces, do not drain
3 cups blueberries or blackberries
3/4 cup sugar
1 package yellow cake mix
1 stick butter, melted
1/4 cup sugar
Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Put pineapple and berries in buttered pan; sprinkle with 3/4 cup sugar. Pour dry cake mix over berry mixture then drizzle melted butter over the dry mix. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup sugar. Do not stir. Bake about 45 minutes.