Have you been brambling yet this year? One of the best things about Autumn is the harvest of beautiful berries appearing in a hedgerow near you. Bursting with sweetness and crammed full of skin-friendly vitamins. Here’s a run down of why we love them and our guide on how to get the most from the berry season.
Packing a powerful nutritional punch
Fresh berries are an excellent sources of vitamin C (100 g of blackberries contain 35% of RDA), which is a powerful natural antioxidant and essential for keeping your skin glowing with health. Eating fruits rich in vitamin C helps develop resistance against infections and helps to defend cells against harmful free radicals that, amongst other things, accelerate the signs of ageing. Even better, berries are also low in calories and high in fibre. Darker berries such as blackberries and blueberries contain high levels of powerful phytonutrients that are thought to help fight against cancer.
Fancy a berry adventure?
Berries come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Here are a few of the less usual ones to discover…
Wineberries – This Asian species of the raspberry family is a distant member of the rose family. It produces beautifully sweet, orangey-red berries that look as lovely as they taste. Use them like raspberries for an added bit of berry drama.
Bilberries – It looks like a blueberry on the outside but is much more special on the inside (a lovely deep purple colour rather than the greenish white inside that blueberries have). Bilberries are soft and loaded with juice so burst easily making them tricky to transport. So you are most likely to find them in farm shops rather than supermarkets, making these juicy little gems even more special. Turn them in to glamorous little tarts, posh fruit pies or fabulous fools.
Boysenberries – These super-sized fruit in fabulous colours take the best of the berry world and combine it in to one fruit. As juicy as a blackberry, as super-sized as a loganberry but with the delicacy of a raspberry – what great berry DNA these beauties have. They make a richly flavoured pie and jewel coloured jam that is fine enough to turn a piece of toast into a little slice of something precious.
Getting the most from the berry season – four top tips
1. Pick your own
From the end of summer and through September, the darker members of the berry family are at their peak. The soft structure of berries makes them prone to bursting, and the juicer they are the trickier this is. So the most luscious you’ll taste are unlikely to come from the supermarket shelves. There’s nothing finer than just picked from the bush as the fresher berries are, the better they taste and the higher nutritional punch they pack. So if you get chance, get out in to the countryside or swing by a fruit farm and get picking. There’s still time (but be quick!). Just picked fruit is best served simply – just a sprinkle of sugar and dollop of cream or a spoonful stirred through yoghurt for breakfast. And there’s lots to do with the rest of your bounty of course..
2. Get crafty in the kitchen
Did someone say pudding? Crumbles, pies, cobblers, steam puds – get your Mary Berry cookbook out and get baking. Berries go brilliantly with other autumn fruit such as apples, pears and damsons. Add a healthy dash with a handful of oats, chopped nuts or finely chopped ginger here and there.
3. Drink up
Berries are little gems when it comes to making juices and smoothies with real wow factor. Not only do they taste delicious, they dial up the nutritional impact of everything they are in and turn their world amazing shades of crimson.
- For a simple not too sweet skin-cleansing juice try this combination with your breakfast: Juice a cupful of dark berries (blueberries are lovely, but replace with whatever is in season, so this week we’re making it with blackberries) + one cucumber + half a lemon with the rind cup off + two eating apples (pink lady apples work well).
- Feeling a little overly virtuous? Then how amount a cheeky cocktail. This Blackberry Basil Mojito recipe from the minimalistbaker.com is simple to do and hits the spot perfectly…
4. Fill up your freezer
Berries freeze brilliantly. The trick is to follow these simple few steps so they freeze individually and keep their shape rather than turn into a big solid lump…
- Put your fresh berries in to a medium size freezer bag, half fill rather than right to the brim.
- Put the sealed bag on to a baking tray and spread the berries out inside the bag so they are hardly touching one another.
- Place the whole thing (tray included) in the freezer for at least an hour.
- Once the berries have hardened, remove the tray – it’s then safe to squish the bag in to a smaller space – the berries will stay separated so long as they don’t start to defrost.
- If you are going to use them to cook with or juice then it’s best to just half thaw them rather than defers totally – they’ll keep their shape better and it’s a lot less messy.
Enjoy your Autumn.