These days the Farmers’ Market is absolutely bursting with berries! Nothing quite tastes like summer more than a handful of fresh-picked berries. They shine like jewels in any dish from breakfast bowls to desserts to an array of berry baked goods, but despite their small size and bright colors, berries are jam-packed (jam, get it?) with beneficial antioxidants and phytonutrients that help keep our bodies working optimally.
For starters, the antioxidants in berries help our body prevent and repair harmful oxidative stress caused by free radicals. Eating a diet rich in antioxidants can help improve our health, protect our skin and hair, and prevent certain diseases. All fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants, but nutrient-rich berries are some of the absolute best sources. In fact, one study shows that a single cup of berries provides all the disease-fighting antioxidants you’ll need in a single day.
Berries are also rich in micronutrients such as polyphenols, a type of antioxidant that helps prevent cancer and heart disease. Their mineral and vitamin content is small in comparison to some other foods, but their micronutrient profile is so rich that despite their size, their effect on our health is particularly noteworthy. Their antioxidant power lies in the pigment anthocyanin, which is associated with inhibiting tumors as well as stopping the spread of cancer cells.
In addition, berries are potentially beneficial for heart health. A study published in 2010 showed that when berries were consumed, healthy individuals as well as those with diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and smokers had: a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, improved cholesterol levels, and greater antioxidant capacity.
To help make berries a bigger part of your family’s diet, here are 5 tips to try:
- EAT A BOWL OF COLORS:
Every day, treat yourself to a bowl filled with berries such as blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries. You could continue up the rainbow and add more fresh seasonal fruit of your choice. Bring it to work as a snack or enjoy it for breakfast.
- DRINK A SMOOTHIE:
If you’re in a hurry, try blending your berries (to retain all of the good fiber) to make an on-the-go smoothie. Throw in some leafy greens, such as kale, spinach, and chard, to make a nutritional powerhouse drink. If you want a smooth, thicker smoothie, add a couple of bananas. Whatever you do with your smoothing, try to keep it simple and very ‘berry.’
- PUT BERRIES ON TOP:
Berries can serve as an excellent addition to other foods. You can add them on top of oatmeal, granola, yogurt, crepes, or even over grilled pork and chicken. If you want to get really creative, try blending berries with dates to make a jelly paste, which you can spread on bread or crackers.
- HAVE A SALAD:
Mix blueberries, raspberries, strawberries and blackberries with mixed leafy greens and fresh herbs. Try blending lemon juice and strawberries with a little bit of oil for a tasty dressing.
- MAKE A BERRY DESSERT:
Cobblers, Crumbles, Tarts or Crisps… Combine the best of each berry in every bite, with a mixed variety of colors, textures and flavors. One of my summer favorites is this no-fuss, free form Mixed Berry Galette. It’s rustic, beautiful and so delicious. I hope you enjoy!
Mixed Berry Galette with Honey &
Lemon Ricotta Cream
PREP TIME: 30 minutes
TOTAL TIME: 1 hour
INGREDIENTS: *available seasonally at the Farmers’ Market
1 cup plus 2 tbsp flour, plus more for rolling dough
¼ cup granulated sugar
4 tbsp unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
Dash of salt
2 to 3 tablespoons ice water
For the filling:
3 cups strawberries, hulled and quartered*
1 ¼ cup berries of choice (Try: blueberries, raspberries, or blackberries)*
2 ½ tbsp flour
2 ½ tbsp sugar
¼ tsp salt
1 tbsp water
1 tbsp Turbinado sugar (or regular sugar)
For the cream:
¾ cup heavy cream
¾ cup soft ricotta cheese*
3 tbsp honey*
Zest of 1 lemon
Place flour, 1/4 cup sugar, butter and salt in a food processor bowl. Pulse 8 to 10 times or until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add water, 1 tablespoon at a time with motor running, pulsing just until dough holds together when a small bit is pressed between your fingers. Shape dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 425ºF.
Roll dough on a lightly floured surface to an 11 to 12-inch circle, about 1/8-inch thick. Gently transfer dough to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.
Place the berries in a medium bowl. Add 2 ½ tbsp of flour, 2 ½ tbsp sugar, and ¼ tsp of salt. Toss well.
Mound the berry mixture in center of dough leaving a 1 ½ to 2-inch border. Fold and pleat dough evenly up and around the berries.
In a small bowl, mix 1 egg with 1 tbsp of water. Brush the egg wash over the exposed dough and sprinkle with Turbinado sugar.
Bake 30 – 35 minutes or until crust is rich golden brown. Allow to cool slightly.
Pour cream into a mixer bowl with a whisk attachment. Mix for about 1 minute—until a stiff cream forms. Add the ricotta, honey and lemon zest. Mix for another 30 seconds, or so, until well combined.
Serve warm with a generous dollop of ricotta cream. Enjoy!