The Upper Valley berry season typically ranges from mid-June to October. In our short but fruitful season, we can enjoy raspberries and strawberries (although neither are technically real berries), then move into summer with black raspberries (aka black caps), currants, gooseberries, elderberries, blueberries, blackberries, and fall raspberries.
With so many farms in the area cultivating these fruits and the luck of coming across wild or long-forgotten patches, harvesting enough berries for cooking and preserving isn’t usually too difficult to accomplish if you have the time and an empty container. Spending a morning at a pick-your-own farm is also a wonderful way to gather excess fruit for the winter for those who can afford to do so. Fruit is also an allowable SNAP/3 Squares VT purchase, and most Upper Valley farmers’ markets will double SNAP dollars up to $10. That is, withdraw $10 of SNAP from your EBT card at the market tent, and the market will give you an additional $10 to spend on fruits and vegetables.
Storing, washing, freezing, and using berries is simple. Canning is another matter, and your Extension website should have detailed information about safe canning methods.
Storing and Washing Berries:
- Refrigerate right away. Chilling the berries for an hour or so before you wash them helps keep these fragile, sun-warmed fruits from falling apart under the water.
- Store on a shelf and NOT in the crisper or a drawer. Allow air to circulate around the berries to keep them fresher, longer.
- DO NOT rinse berries until you are ready to eat them.
- Rinse and drain in a colander. Do not soak or let them sit in water.
- Best Practice: Spread washed and dried berries on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper in one layer and freeze for several hours. Transfer frozen berries to a freezer-safe bag or container, removing air if possible, and keep frozen for several months.
- My Reality: Loosely pack into quart-sized freezer bags, remove air with a straw and seal tightly. Lay on the side in the freezer. Leave there for six months in the way back, under freezer-burned vanilla ice cream, before discovering during a frantic search for sugar one late night.
Tips for Use:
- Eat fresh when possible
- Simmer a pint of berries, with sugar to taste, until the berries break down. Eat this sauce on everything.
- Simmer a pint of berries, with sugar to taste, until the berries break down. Squeeze a bit of lemon or lime juice in there, strain out the solids, and store in the refrigerator. Use this berry syrup in everything.
- Use frozen berries in smoothies, pancakes, waffles, muffins, pie, cake, parfaits, and fools.
Photo credit: Molly Drummond