Monday, August 1, 2011

A Guide to Summer Berries

The Pacific Northwest is home to some of the finest berries in America. Boysenberries, marionberries, jostaberries, gooseberries, raspberries, loganberries, chesterberries, blueberries, huckleberries, a person could get lost in the lexicon of berries. Here are a few notes on what the names mean.

  • Strawberry (fragaria) is widely known and loved. There are many cultivars, but are generally divided into "June bearing" or "ever bearing" fruits.

  • Blackberry (rubus) is by far the largest family of berries with more than 350 species. The most widely known cultivars are the 'Boysen', 'Marion', 'Chester Thornless', 'Triple Crown', 'Logan', and 'Siskiyou', to name a few. Oregon is the leading world producer of cultivated blackberries.

  • Barberry (berberis) is more widely known as the Oregon grape or mahonia. It is too tart to eat out of hand, and generally used for making jellies.

  • Raspberry (rubus) generally refers to the European red raspberry, but there are also golden, purple and black raspberries. These fruits are particularly perishable, with its fruit being very soft when ripe.

  • Dewberry (rubus caesius) resembles the blackberry and is a close relative. It is reminiscent of the raspberry, but ripening to dark purple or black, and not as fragile as the raspberry.

  • Loganberry (rubus x loganobaccus) is a cross between a raspberry and a dewberry. It is about the size of a raspberry with the color and flavor of a blackberry.

  • Tayberry (rubus fruticosus x idaeus) is a cross between a raspberry and a blackberry, more resembling a raspberry and being sweeter than the loganberry.

  • Gooseberry (ribes uvacrispa) is a very tart berry, either green or red skinned, with green flesh. It is very popular in Europe, but not as well known or loved in America. I personally love this berry and use it extensively every year. It has a very short season, usually the month of June.

  • Jostaberry (ribes nigrum x uvacrispa) is a cross between a gooseberry and a black currant. It is slightly smaller than a gooseberry with a very dark colored skin and flesh. It's flavor is more like the black currant, especially when fully ripe.

  • Currants (ribes) are small, tart, pea sized berries ranging in color from white, pink, red, and black. The tartness of the berries also varies. They are generally used for jellies, preserves, liqueurs and sauces.

  • Blueberry (vaccinium) is divided into "lowbush," which are regarded as wild, and usually very small, and "highbush," of which there are many cultivars, and the berries are much larger.

Farmers markets in Portland are bursting with a wide variety of berries all summer long, and many people in the Northwest are passionate jam and jelly makers. People also store the berries in the freezer and use them well into autumn. Although I have always loved berries, I had never seen the wealth of fruits we have here in the Pacific Northwest, so take advantage of them.

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