By Ellen Oltman Kellner
Photographs by Timothy Peters
One summer when I was 6, I discovered wild blackberries growing behind my house. The branches were long and tangled and covered with thorns and ripe fruit. I filled a large bowl with the juicy, dark-purple berries, and my mother made blackberry pies, jam, and cookie bars until the fruit was gone.
Fresh from the market, frozen, or dried, the best by far are the ones you pick yourself. Many local farms offer Pick-Your-Own (PYO) fields for customers, or you may find yourself in a field or thicket with berries growing wild. In Vermont these are most likely blueberries, blackberries, and red or black raspberries. Hard and white or green while growing, they will burst into full color when ripe. Berries ready to eat will be easy to pluck from the stem and full of juice. They can be added to sweet or savory salads, baked into muffins and cakes, muddled in cocktails, cooked into jams, and eaten by the handful. Berries are a vital ingredient in morning smoothies and summer pies.
Not just delicious, berries are also an excellent source of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. Low in calories and high in fiber, the best thing about them is that they taste good! Ripe berries can appear in every color of the rainbow, with the sweetest and juiciest of them in the deepest shades of blue, purple, and red.