Posts Tagged ‘berries’

Gooseberries and other Lesser Known Berries (and 5 links for Friday)

Friday, June 18th, 2010

Gooseberries are one of those things I don’t think to seek out at the market, but am always pleasantly surprised to find on the table when they arrive in early summer. What’s a gooseberry? I didn’t know myself until I spotted them at the Dupont Circle Farmers Market a few years ago. They are small round berries, related to the currant, that resemble a grape with stripes. They start off tart and green and and turn reddish purple and slightly sweet. They add a great tart balance with combined with sweeter berries in any of your favorite summer desserts. (I made a delish gooseberry-cherry clafoutis the summer before last.) This batch came from Black Rock Orchard in Pennsylvania, and I’ve heard reports of gooseberries across the northeast US. A local Twitter friend reports having them in her backyard growing up, which has me pondering adding them to our planned berry patch for next year.

While we’re on the subject of lesser known berries — those you may have grown up with but never see in a supermarket — we recently discovered that the mysterious berry-laden tree between our neighbor’s house and ours was a mulberry tree. I never realized we had mulberries around here, or that they grew on such tall trees. But a well-timed Washington Post article clarified the matter. I was spoiled growing up on a mountain in Oregon, where we routinely snacked on tiny tart red huckleberries, sweet thimbleberries and wild blackberries every summer. One regional berry you may hear a lot about if you torture yourself by following California food blogs, as I do, is the olallieberry. It was actually cultivated in Oregon (a relative of our beloved Marionberries), but I’ve yet to come across it.

Berries like these are one of the reasons we frequent farmers markets in the summer — aside from exposing our kids to unique berries they might never see otherwise, they also learn to appreciate seasonality and to savor the berries and fruits in their seasons. That’s not to say we never buy grapes in the winter, but they just taste so much better when they’re fresh and local.

Do you have a favorite regional berry from your childhood?

And now, five berry-themed links for your weekend enjoyment:

1. Gooseberry Ginger Jam from Doris and Jilly Cook

2. Mulberry Pie from Herban Lifestyle

3. Olallieberry Tart from Chez Pim

4. Vanilla Bean Marionberry Caramel Swirl Ice Cream (wow!) from Culinary Concoctions by Peabody

5. Maple Huckleberry Coffee Cake from 101 Cookbooks

Shared with Fight Back Friday at the Food Renegade.

At the Beaverton Ore. Farmers Market, SuperBlueberry, Hot Crepes and Cold Berry Sodas

Friday, July 24th, 2009

Part 2 of 3 in our Oregon travelogue. Read about our farmers market visit, or skip to the end for some Maryland local food events this weekend!

beaverton farmers marketAs I mentioned previously, it is berry season in Oregon and the food theme of our trip can be summed up in three words: berries, berries, and berries. We found more than a few at our market destination of choice this trip. The Beaverton Farmers Market, one of Oregon’s largest markets, is located in a western suburb of Portland and has a distinctly family-friendly vibe. From the balloon man to the kettle corn to the live music, kids have plenty to tempt their eyes and taste buds, not to mention the fountain to cool off in and adjacent playground.

Have you ever met a Superfood in person? We did, the charming Super Blueberry who handed out recipe pamphlets courtesy of the Oregon Blueberry Commission. (Really, blueberries need marketing? How do I sign my kid up for that gig? They could pay him in berries.) My son was thrilled to receive a bookmark “with smiling blueberries because blueberries make me happy!”

super blueberry

I could go on all day about the wonderful produce – artichokes, sweet sugar snap peas, Walla Walla onions, Rainier cherries, apricots, dried cherries – meats and seafood, bread and baked goods, wine (yes, wine tasting at market), flavored vinegars and of course some of my favorite cheeses, not to mention the coffee truck (Pony Espresso) and cold drinks served in compostible cups — or the fact that I didn’t even make a¬†complete pass through the market and still left green with envy — but I’ll just point you towards two favorites to wrap up your shopping trip with a satisfying brunch: Zest crepes and Hot Lips local berry sodas.

brunch at beaverton farmers mkt

You might be surprised to hear such a ringing endorsement from me for a soda, but Hot Lips Soda is truly a special treat that kids will love and you foodie tot\'s first sodacan feel good about. Hot Lips is a Portland pizza chain I had more than a few pies from during my high school years, but since I’ve left town they’ve branched out to create their own line of all-natural, locally-sourced fruit and berry sodas. The ingredients are simply carbonated water, fruit, cane sugar and organic lemon juice. In that order. While sweet, they taste of pure, ripe fruit, without that chemically-sweet aftertaste of conventional sodas. Strawberry is so fruit-laden it is almost as thick as a smoothie, and the strawberry flavor is so¬†intense you may have a hard time settling for a plain old berry after drinking this. My favorite is the boysenberry, the heady, fragrant berry just tastes of summer. Pear is crisp and clean, and you can get a few limited-edition flavors, like currant or loganberry, on tap at their stores. And not only are the ingredients local, but the bottles are manufactured from recycled glass in Portland.

sweet basil crepe Zest crepes are made to order from market-fresh ingredients, fun for the kids to watch and of course they have their own menu options to choose from. The boy enjoyed the “Cheese Louise,” naturally, and I had the “Sweet Basil” with basil, tomato, feta and mozzarella. Delicious. If only I had had room to try a sweet version as well, with flavor combinations including berries and mascarpone, berries and Nutella, and lemon curd and ricotta. Zest debuted at the market this year and plans to open a stand-alone shop in the near future, but for now you can find them at the market on Saturdays, 8am-1:30pm, May through October. (The market is also open Wednesday afternoons, June through August.) See more pictures of our market finds here.

Note for DC-area local food lovers: Maryland’s Buy Local Week is wrapping up this weekend, and you can celebrate the best of the Old Line State close to town with the Montgomery County Farm Tour or venture further afield to St. Michaels for the 2nd annual Chesapeake Folk Festival on Saturday — my favorite local foods event of the year. And if these crepes have you drooling, visit Farm Fresh Chef up at the Clarksburg Md. farmers market on Sunday (or make your own).

And, save the dates for National Farmers Market Week, August 2-9, which will be observed in Virginia with a Virginia Grown recipe competition.

One Local Summer, Pacific NW edition

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

We made our annual trek to the Pacific Northwest this past weekend, a little earlier than in recent years which put us smack in the middle of berry season.

sauvie island berries or

It was, as always, too short a visit and I didn’t manaburgerville milkshakege to cook anything myself this time. (Oh, how those lovely artichokes at the market taunted me as we were headed back out of town! Not to mention the local fishermen …. oh, that beautiful red wild salmon. Sigh.)

We did savor our quick stop at Burgerville, home grown fast food with a sustainable flair, where we enjoyed Walla Walla onion burgers and fresh raspberry shakes. How green is Burgerville? The kids meal toy is a tomato seed kit!

After an afternoon kayaking on Sauvie Island, we stopped at Kruger’s Farm Market for ice cream, cold drinks (homegrown Henry Weinhard’s Black Cherry cream soda for me) and fresh berries – Kotata blackberries, boysenberries, raspberries, blueberries — all perfectly ripe and oh so sweet.

That evening the boy took a ride on Grandma’s horse, snacked on fresh-picked blackberries and passed out sticky and content on the drive home.

kayaking sauvie island or

Pacific NW Snapshots: Portland Market Peppers + Morels

Monday, September 8th, 2008

In my previous wrap-up of our vacation, I mentioned the fabulous North Portland coffee shop Random Order where we had locally-roasted espresso and pies featuring locally-grown ingredients. I have a few more food highlights to share from our trip to the Pacific Northwest, where everything is big and bold, from the mountains to the coffee, the produce and the rain!

We spent a rainy morning at the midweek Portland Farmers Market downtown. Located just a few blocks from my old alma mater, this relatively small market was still a total sensory overload. So much variety and unique items, such as the Picklopolis stand, fresh Columbia River salmon and one of my favorites, Rogue River Creamery cheeses. We only bought a few things for dinner that evening as we were headed to the Coast the next day, so settled on some glorious baby artichokes, padron peppers and morels.

We were also blown away by Hot Lips’ local berry sodas. The label even specifies the farm where the berries were grown. How’s that for knowing where your food comes from?! Hot Lips is a local pizza joint where my classmates and I, after turning in all the soda cans we could round up (Oregon’s refundable cans, the husband couldn’t understand why we had to save all our cans), would fork over our change for delicious pizza. Now they make this awesome soda and in addition to the flavors at market – blackberry, blueberry, marionberry, strawberry, each with just a touch of real cane sugar and carbonated water – they serve a black raspberry from the tap. Sadly, we didn’t make it into the store to try that one.

We also bought some fresh tamales, mine was artichoke and peppers, and devoured them right there in the rain, while the toddler made his way through a pint of blackberries.

That night, we simply steamed the artichokes, sauteed the morels in butter, and fried up the peppers according to the instructions provided by the vendor. Each was remarkably fresh and flavorful and a great compliment to my Dad’s spaghetti.

I’ll post a weekly Pacific NW feature for the rest of the month, so check back every Monday! And on tap for the remainder of this week, a special series on Preserving the Tastes of Summer.

Summer Solstice Shortcake

Friday, June 20th, 2008

Growing up, we had an annual Strawberry Shortcake Festival every Father’s Day weekend in June, at the country grange* just down the road from us. This was *the* event of the year on our dusty little mountain, with people coming from miles away (from The City, even, so you know it was a big deal) and lines stretching for hours around the grange. They had the good sense to also host a craft fair, so folks could browse as they waited in line. There was also a walk-up window when you could get your shortcake to go. From an early age, I couldn’t wait for the year I’d be old enough to be a shortcake waitress. I think the minimum age was about 8 to bus tables (you got to share the tips!) and maybe 11 or 12 to be a “real” waitress. (Apparently child labor laws didn’t apply that weekend.) Since the only menu options were cake or biscuit and small, large or family, it didn’t require too much experience. Waitresses got to wear the official strawberry aprons, sewed by the old ladies of the neighborhood, with a pocket to store our precious tips. I remember the legend of a girl a few years old than us who once made $80 in a single day. A lot when you consider tips came in dimes and quarters. (Okay, I swear I didn’t grow up in the Depression, just a rural mountain in Oregon…)

Oregon (Hood) strawberries, for those who’ve never been fortunate enough to taste them, are juicy, sweet and flavorful — a far cry from the bland California creatures found in supermarkets across the country. There’s an easy way to identify the imposters, too; an Oregon berry hull pops right out with a pinch of the stem, no silly huller required. The key to a good strawberry crop is a rainy spring (which Oregon most definitely has) followed by a dry spell to let the berries ripen. Miraculously, it almost never rained Festival weekend and the berries were at the peak of ripeness. The biscuit was actually shortcake, while the cake option was more of a spongecake. Both baked from scratch by neighborhood women in the kitchen. Others would hull, slice and sugar the berries (this was one of the few areas men were allowed to participate in), whip fresh cream, and then assemble the plate. A “small” was the size of a regular salad plate, large a dinner plate, and family size came on a platter. Think turkey platter. Something like eight biscuits piled sky high with berries and cream, it was literally a meal for a family of eight.

Needless to say, Father’s Day and strawberry shortcake is inextricably linked in my taste memories. My husband, however, is more of a chocolate dessert guy and doesn’t really get my obsession with not-too-sweet shortcake doused in sweet red berry juice, cream flowing down the sides …. sorry, tastebuds were getting carried away there. So on Father’s Day I took him out for more manly indulgences, and saved the shortcake for later in the week. Rather than forcing my culinary traditions on his day, I’m declaring a new tradition: Summer Solstice Shortcake.

Because our Virginia berries just aren’t quite as flavorful as the ones from my childhood, I like to give them a boost with balsamic vinegar. One of my favorite summer salads is strawberries with balsamic, cracked pepper, basil and honey – this take on shortcake infuses some of the fresh basil taste into a classic summer dessert.

Recipe: Summer Solstice Shortcake


  • 1 recipe shortcake, using your favorite recipe.
    I used Betty Crocker’s, but I’m not in love with it.
  • 1 pt strawberries, washed, hulled and sliced
    (Westmoreland Berry Farm, VA, 71 mi.)
  • 1/2 pt other berry of your choice, optional.
    Used black raspberries here. (also Westmoreland)
  • 2 T basil syrup
  • 2 T sugar
  • 1 T balsamic vinegar
  • 1 c heavy cream (Trickling Springs Creamery, PA, 104 mi.)
  • 1 t sugar


Toss berries with basil syrup, sugar and vinegar and let stand at room temperature for an hour. Make shortcake (or biscuits) and cool. Whip cream and sugar into soft peaks. Assemble: slice shortcake in half, place bottom half on plate and cover in berries with lots of juice. Top with cream and top half of shortcake. Garnish with basil leaf (optional), and enjoy!

* I used to babysit the boy who won the scholarship this year!! Wow. I really am old.