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The Ultimate Summer Fruit Guide

Buy and store the best fruits for your desserts — or for snacking. 
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When you taste a ripe early-summer strawberry, it's like discovering a whole new species of berry. Strawberries come in many sizes; you can find long-stemmed berries for dipping or small ones perfect for eating whole. Fraises des bois are miniature, wild, woodland strawberries, less than an inch long, and are extraordinarily sugary and floral. Ripe strawberries have a uniform deep red color. White or green tops indicate unripe fruit (strawberries don't ripen once picked). Look for plump berries with fresh, green leafy caps. Avoid baskets with moldy or soft berries, or red stains (a sign of squished fruit). If your fruit is very delicate, spread it out on a plate and keep it covered with a paper towel or plastic wrap in the refrigerator for up to two days.


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These gorgeous little berries are on many folks' radar these days. Not only do they taste great, but they are really good for you. Rich in healthy antioxidants, they are embraced as a superfood by conscious eaters. These American natives, which look like small marbles with a mini crown, are in season from midsummer through early fall. Dried blueberries are available year round, have a concentrated flavor and are a great portable snack. Look for plump, uniform berries. Avoid baskets with green or wizened berries, or blue stains (a sign of squished fruit). A shiny white bloom on the berries is completely normal and actually a sign of freshness. Blueberries don't have much of an aroma, so a taste test is a good idea to confirm full flavor. Refrigerate berries in covered containers; the open containers they are often sold in aren't always ideal for storing. Wash berries with cool water in a colander just before using.

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These cheerful oh-so-summery fruits fall into three categories: sweet, sour and middling sweet-and-sour. Common sweet varieties are the deep burgundy Bing and the two-toned Rainier; both are naturals for eating fresh out of hand. Pitted cherries can be tossed in fruit salads, flambeed with rum or brandy, or baked in cobblers, custards and, of course, pies. The dusky red sour cherry has a short season (up to four weeks in good years) around mid-July. Raw, their complex, tart flavor is an acquired taste, but when cooked they are perfect for pies and preserves. Varieties like Montmorency and Meteor bridge the sweet-tart gap. If you're unsure which camp a cherry falls into, snag a taste before buying. Buy cherries that look plump and are free of cracking, splitting or blemishes, and choose those with supple green stems, if you can. All red varieties should have a deep, uniform color. Fresh cherries should be refrigerated and eaten within a couple of days after purchase.

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A good blackberry, which looks like a plump cluster of inky bubbles, is sweet, with a pleasant pucker. This family of berries encompasses over 100 varieties, such as marionberries, loganberries, boysenberries and olallieberries. Blackberries run the gamut from pinky-sized minis to thumb-sized fat ones. Eat berries at their peak — July and August — for best flavor. Look for berries that are dark, plump and free of mold or damage. Avoid those that have either the stem caps or a reddish cast — signs they were picked too early. Check cartons' sides and bottoms for juice stains, a sign of poor handling. As with all berries, try to use within a day of purchase (or picking). Refrigerate berries in covered containers and wash with cool water in a colander just before using. If you have a bumper crop, freeze them: Spread berries out on a paper towel-lined pan, freeze until firm, then transfer to sealed plastic bags and store for up to six months. Thawed berries are perfect for sauces, smoothies and in baked recipes.

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