How to Find the Season's Best Berries
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“Farmers make more money on lower flavor varieties because they don’t get much — if any — price premium for flavor,” says Cochran, who adds that most supermarket and farmer’s market berries are lower flavor. “Local organic farmers have done the math, too. We grow higher flavor berries and have very loyal customers, but make less money than we could if we took the other route.”
Though most savvy shoppers would be skeptical of generic supermarket produce, blind trust in local organic produce can also be misplaced. In order to secure the best berries, keep an eye out for farms — like Swanton Berry — that have an open, vested interest in cultivating for quality, not quantity.
As for specific berries, Cochran prefers the strawberry — “I find most other berries disappointing.” — but says that they are much more difficult and expensive to grow than other kinds, such as blackberries. According to Cochran, blackberries grow well in different climates, have few pests, and, once established, produce fruit for multiple seasons. Strawberries, however, are subject to many pests and diseases, and are highly sensitive to climate conditions.
Buyer’s GuideStrawberries: Generally best from mid-June to early July, look for berries that are dry, firm, deep red in color, with intact stems — they do not ripen further after picking.
Raspberries: Find fully colored raspberries that hold their shape, since soft berries spoil sooner, ripened in late June and early July.
Blackberries: Available from May to September, but peak in June and July; look for shininess, as the blackberry’s dull color is a good sign of its age.
Blueberries: Purchase smooth-skinned, dark blue or purple berries, making sure to avoid juice-stained containers, from mid-June to mid-August.