By Julia Howard
Sweet, sour, tart, juicy — berries are a highlight of the summer season. At the Saratoga Farmers’ Market, local farms bring the very best. The variety includes gooseberries, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, and saskatoon berries.
These locally sourced berries signify the diversity that grows in our region from late spring to early fall. Berries are known for their health benefits and antioxidants, but it’s their taste that makes them a coveted summertime treat.
Gooseberries are produced by a thorny shrub and are easy to grow, according to Laurie Kokinda, owner of Kokinda Farm. “Pick off the stems, rinse, and you can freeze them whole or cook them down first,” explains Kokinda. Gooseberries have a strawberry-grape flavor and are popular in jams, pies, and as a dessert topping.
Strawberries can be found in bountiful harvests in the early summer with additional everbearing varieties that produce berries into late September. Locally grown strawberries are often smaller than those found in stores, however, they have much more flavor.
Blueberries are just beginning to ripen and at Butternut Ridge Farm, Debbie Stevens reports that their harvest will begin in 1-2 weeks. Sweet, juicy, and loaded with antioxidants, blueberries are ideal for eating fresh, or in sauces and baked goods.
Raspberries are cold-hardy and long-lived. They produce sweet, flavorful fruit suitable for fresh eating, sauces, and preserves. “Our raspberry and blackberry bushes have been on our farm for generations,” says Andy Burger of Burger’s Market Garden. “We hand-pick these all-natural, small-batch crops fresh for every market, and our purple raspberries are really wonderful.”
Blackberries are renowned for their nutritional value as they are packed with fiber and vitamins C and K. The delicate fruit is popular in desserts, jams, seedless jelly, and sometimes wine. “Get them while you can because their growing season can be short-lived depending on the weather,” advises Andy Burger. “Freezing these berries is as easy as spreading them on a baking sheet to freeze overnight, and throwing them in a zip-lock freezer bag.”
Saskatoon berries are exclusively available at Scotch Ridge Berries & Trees. Saskatoons are similar to blueberries in their composition and nutrition, though they are more closely related to the apple family. Many describe their taste as having a sweet, nutty almond flavor. They typically ripen in late June or early July depending on the seasonal climate.
This week’s recipe: Blueberry Fool