News and Notes from The Johnson Center

Family and Food: Very Berry Good

JCCHD | Wed, July 18, 2012 | [Family and Food][Healthcare]

Berries are not only delicious, they are also highly nutritious, containing high levels of vitamin C, antioxidants, potassium, fiber, and many beneficial phytochemicals. Some are even considered super foods due to their high antioxidant and phytochemical content. Berries are known as good anti-cancer foods. They have also been shown to be helpful in maintaining healthy blood pressure and reducing inflammation.

The most popular berry of all is the strawberry—even though strawberries are not technically berries because they grow from the base of the plant instead of from a flower ovary. Nevertheless, they are still characterized as a berry, and they contain the most vitamin C.  There is evidence that they were very popular among Greeks and Romans. In the 1800’s, Americans began growing them on the east coast, and then eventually the strawberry moved west with pioneers. Currently, most of the seventy varieties are grown in California and Florida.

Summer is the best time to find tasty quality berries of nearly all varieties at a reasonable price. Select dry, firm, well-shaped berries, avoiding those that are soft and watery berries or dehydrated and wrinkled; select packages that do not have juice stains. They should be eaten within a few days to a week, depending on the variety. Store them dry and in an airtight container. To help increase their shelf life in the refrigerator, you can rinse berries with vinegar and then with water. This helps keep molds from growing as quickly. Whether you choose to rinse with vinegar or not, make sure they’re completely dry before refrigerating. You can wash them just before use. You can also freeze berries during their seasonal months for later use—just make sure they are completely dry before freezing. Frozen berries can last for ten months to one year.

Berries can be eaten fresh, used in jams, jellies, and preserves, baked into pancakes, muffins, waffles, and pies, or used in syrups, sauces, salsas, and salads.

Most of us stick to the more popular, widely available varieties of berries in the United States, such as strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries, however, there are many, many more options to choose from.

Here are a few notable varieties you might not be familiar with:
• Mulberry: these grow in warm climates
• Bilberry: native to Europe; short shelf life; mainly picked wild to make jams or baked goods
• Buffalo berry: native to the Great Plains (both humans and animals enjoy these)
• Cowberry: similar in taste to a cranberry; grown in Canada, Northern Europe; used in baked goods, preserves
• Currants: grow in cool, moist areas
• Dewberry: like a wild blackberry that grows on vines; native to Pacific Northwest; can be eaten fresh or used in jams and baked goods
• Elderberry: similar to currants; grows in cool, moist regions with chilly winters
• Goji berry: high in antioxidants; native to China and Himalayas; can grow through drought, extreme heat and cold, and in poor soils
• Gooseberry: tart, green berries for pies and preserves; grows in rich, moist soil
• Huckleberry: native to Pacific Northwest; similar to blueberries
• Logan berry: cross between raspberry and blackberry
• Nannyberry: native to North Woodlands, marshes; used in syrups and preserves
• Persimmon, classified botanically as a berry; round, orange; native to Middle East and Asia; some are grown in the southern US
• Salmonberry: grown in Alaska and Canada; eaten fresh or used in preserves
• Thimbleberry: cousin of raspberry; native to Alaska, northern Mexico; eaten fresh or in jams
• Youngberry: cross between dewberry and blackberry, developed by Byrnes M. Young in 1905; grows in new Zealand, Australia, and South Africa

You can explore these easy and delicious recipes using berries: 

Mixed Berry Barbeque Chicken Skewers

Sauce for Chicken Skewers:

1tablespoon vegetable oil
½ cups chopped yellow onion
8 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cups chili powder
3 tablespoons paprika
1tablespoon ground cumin
2 cups brewed coffee
1 ½ cups strawberries, chopped
⅔ cup blackberries
½ cup blueberries
⅔ cup raspberries
¼ cup cider vinegar
¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
3 tablespoons molasses
Salt and ground pepper, to taste
¼ cups chopped cilantro
¼ cups minced red onion

Chicken Breasts:

4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts (6 to 8 ounces each)
¼ teaspoons salt
¼ teaspoons ground black pepper
16 to 18 flat wooden chopsticks or skewers


1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Place chicken on a baking sheet or dish; season with salt and pepper.
3. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until internal temperature is 170°F.
4. Let rest 5 minutes before slicing as directed below.

While the chicken bakes, prepare sauce:

5. Heat oil in a medium-size saucepan; add yellow onion and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes.
6. Add garlic, chili powder, paprika and cumin.
7. Stir 30 to 60 seconds or until fragrant.
8. Add coffee; simmer until reduced by two-thirds.
9. Add berries and simmer 5 minutes.
10. Add vinegar, Worcestershire and molasses.
11. Remove from heat.
12. Blend with a hand-held immersion blender or in a blender until smooth.
13. Season with salt and pepper.
Preheat grill to high heat.
14. Slice each breast into six to eight ½ - inch slices.
15. Brush chicken slices with some of the sauce.
16. Place on grill and cook until grill-marked on both sides.
17. Skewer each slice of chicken with a chopstick.
18. Pour remaining sauce into a small bowl and top with cilantro and red onion.
19. Place sauce bowl on a platter and surround with skewered chicken.

Printable recipe (slightly modified)

Blackberry Rice Turkey Salad

1 package (6 ounces) Driscoll’s Blackberries
3 cups whole grain brown and wild rice, cooked
1½ cup cubed cooked turkey
1 cup thinly sliced celery
¾ cups thinly sliced radishes
⅓ cups glazed walnuts, coarsely chopped
⅓ cups olive oil
1teaspoon coarse ground Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
½ teaspoons salt
¼ teaspoons ground black pepper



1. Whisk oil, Dijon mustard, lemon juice, thyme leaves, salt and pepper in a bowl until blended. Refrigerate any leftovers.

Rice Salad

2. Mix blackberries, rice, turkey, celery, radishes and walnuts in medium bowl.
3. Stir in just enough vinaigrette to moisten salad.
4. Serve or refrigerate until serving.

Printable recipe

SaladSweet Apple Chicken Sausage, Endive, and Blueberry Salad with Toasted Pecans

12 ounces apple chicken sausage
1 tablespoon quality oil
4 cups sliced Belgian endive
1 cup salad greens
1 cup blueberries
2 ½ tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 ½ tbsp honey
¾ tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper
2 tbsp chopped, toasted pecans

1. Sauté chicken sausage in oil over medium heat until browned. Set aside.
2. Combine endive, greens, blueberries, and sausage in a large bowl.
3. In a small bowl combine vinegar, honey, salt, and pepper and whisk together.
4. Add dressing to mixture.
5. Sprinkle pecans on top.

Printable recipe—blueberry-salad-with-toasted-pecans/

Additional references:

Fresh Berries!!