In Season: Raspberries
Raspberries, a member of the rose family, are a soft, delicate fruit with a sweet-tart flavor. The actual berries are composed of many connecting “drupelets” (those bumps on the fruit) around a central, pithy core. The seeds are on the outside of the fruit, buried in the flesh. Those tiny "hairs" you see on your berries are thought to help protect the fruit from insects.
The two main cultivated varieties are red ( Rubus ideaus) and black ( Rubus occidentalis), but keep an eye out for other colors. The purple type is a cross between the black and red ones, and the yellow type is a red variation. Red raspberries, the most popular, were gathered in the wild for centuries -- cultivation only started in Europe and North America in the 19th century. Today, top U.S. producers include Washington, Oregon and California, with Washington producing 60% of the U.S.-grown red raspberries.
One cup of raspberries has only 70 calories and minimal fat (less than 1 gram per serving). Raspberries are an excellent source of the antioxidant vitamin C and fiber -- a single serving will give you 50% of your daily vitamin C and 32% of your daily fiber. These juicy morsels also contain anti-inflammatory compounds called anthocyanins, which may help reduce heart disease and diabetes, and improve eyesight and short-term memory. Another phytochemical called quercetin that's found in the berry has been linked to slowing cancer growth.
My girls stick fresh raspberries on each fingertip and eat them one at a time (and find it hilarious). These berries also taste delicious with a kiss of whipped cream or sprinkle of sugar. I drop some raspberries on Greek yogurt and drizzle with a touch of honey. They also blend well into a smoothie or a mixed berry fruit salad. Keep your eye out for fresh raspberry jam at your farmers' market -- it goes great in a simple PB&J sandwich.
Those are all very simple preparations. You can get more advanced by making raspberry tarts, cakes and pies. A fresh raspberry sauce works wonders on pork or chicken, and the tartness compliments green salads. If you find yourself with a few extra berries (I can't imagine that!), they freeze well (get some good directions here).
Shopping Tip: Choose brightly colored berries without the hull (an outer covering of leaves). If the hull is attached, they’ve been picked too early and are sure to be extremely tart. Avoid soft, moldy or shriveled berries. Store the berries in the refrigerator, unwashed, for 2 to 3 days. Gently rinse them right before serving -- pre-washing berries increases the growth of mold.