The Amazing Little Berries

“The Amazing Little Berries”

by Frederic Patenaude

“The child in you wants more berries!”

It's time for berries! Let's rediscover those little wonders of nature, which are jam-packed with more nutrients than most cultivated fruits. Wild berries are even more nutritious and you can get them for free.

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High in Antioxidants and Nutrients
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Antioxidants are compounds that protect against cell damage inflicted by molecules called oxygen-free radicals, which are a major cause of disease and aging. It's been found that most berries rank higher in antioxidant activities when compared to other cultivated fruits and vegetables. The USDA Human Nutrition Center ranked blueberries the #1most antioxidant rich berry. Strawberries came second on the list. The antioxidants are usually found in the pigment that give berries their color. They help protect us from cancer naturally.

Berries also contain a higher amount of phytochemicals than most other fruits. Phytochemicals are components of plants that have been shown to help prevent certain diseases, or at least influence our health in a positive sense.

Berries are generally high in vitamin C. For example, a cup of strawberries contains as much vitamin C as a cup of orange juice. Without having to go through the list, let's just remember that berries, especially wild ones, contain plenty of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other phytochemicals, more than most cultivated fruits.

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The Fun is the Variety
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The best thing about berries is that there are so many of them. Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, but also blackberries, black raspberries, gooseberries... the list is endless. All types of berries have their particularities and health benefits, and we all have our favorites!

Mine are black raspberries, raspberries and blackberries. Each year it seems I discover a new type of berry that I've never seen before... and it's always an enjoyable experience.

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Unfortunately...
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The bad news is that most commercially grown berries are heavily sprayed with pesticides. The ones that are notoriously bad in that regard are strawberries and raspberries. As mentioned in a previous article, those two berries are in the top-12 most contaminated produce sold in North America.
For that reason, it would be wise to seek organically-grown berries, or even better, wild ones.

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Where to Find Wild Berries
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Wild berries are all around us. Honestly, it would be hard to imagine someone living farther than 5 or 6 miles away from a bush of wild berries. Each year, I've always made a point of seeking the wild berries in my area and I've always found some. Sometimes the supply was scanty, yes, but no matter where I lived I've always been surrounded by berries.

When I went to Oregon a few years ago, I discovered the magic of blackberries of the Northwest. It appears that the woods in that area are jam-packed with big, sweet, round blackberries during the summer. I remember picking and eating so many of them that I eventually thought to myself: there's got to be a way to feed the whole state with what's found in the woods!

The problem is that most people don't even see wild berries, or look for them, and when they do, they don't eat them! A few days ago my friend and I went to a national park nearby where I live. Suddenly, we found an endless supply of wild blueberries. As we started picking them almost greedily, many people went by and saw us picking berries. “Oh look honey, there are blueberries there”, they were saying, and then just passed by us without even trying them! A few people tried some, but found them to be too small to be worth the hassle. I couldn't believe it! What can you expect when most people think "food" needs to be wrapped and sold in a supermarket.?

So before you turn into an insensitive city-dweller who never gets to actually pick the food he eats, reform yourself starting today. Go out to pick some wild berries. They're easy to find in the outskirts of woods and around trails. If you live in a city, you might want to check out along railways (if there are any), or do the right thing, which is to leave the smog for a day and come back with buckets of the stuff.

A hassle-free alternative would be to go to an organic farm and ask them if you can pick them yourself. Usually, they offer that option and charge a lot less for it. When I do this, I generally spend hours picking and come back with so many berries I don't know what to do with. I like that feeling...

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Some Ideas on What to Do With Berries
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Berries make a great entree to a dinner salad, and actually combine very well with a salad, since they do not contain as much sugar as other fruits. You can also make nice salad dressings with berries. A non-fat dressing recipe to try is blending raspberries and celery stalks together.The result is surprising!

Smoothies made with berries are hard to beat. One that I really like is blending 2 thirds mango with 1 third raspberries. For example, 2 cups of mango flesh with 1 cup of raspberries. You can try variations of this with other berries and fruits. The possibilities are endless and the
results are predictably outstanding.

Here's a nice berry recipe from my book, Instant Raw Sensations:

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Summer Berry Soup
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Makes 4 servings

1 liter (1000 ml.) freshly-squeezed orange juice
2 cups fresh raspberries
1 cup fresh blackberries
1 cup fresh blueberries or strawberries

Instructions:
Mix all ingredients together and let sit for sometime to let the flavors mix.

Notes:
This is a great soup to enjoy as often as possible during the berry season. I serve it as an entree before the dinner meal.

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Freezing Berries
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If you've got too many berries at the height of the season, or would like to enjoy those wild berries at other times of the year, you can certainly freeze them. Although I don't recommend the consumption of cold, frozen fruits on a regular basis, those thawed berries still contain most of the nutritional benefits of fresh berries and this might be a great option to add variety during the winter. What I want to avoid, however, is the consumption of cold frozen berries (or other fruits), as this negatively impacts the health of our intestinal flora. So when you want to eat your frozen berries, always thaw them beforehand. They make nice additions to smoothies and fruit salads during the winter.

In conclusion: eat more berries.

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Suggested Berry Book (In honor of the child in you.)
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“Jamberry” by Bruce Degen, is a wonderful children's book all about berries.

A teaser:
"The story of a young boy and a friendly rhyme-spouting bear,
joyously romping through a fantastic berryworld. They won't
stop their berry picking until the last boomberry has blasted
in the strawberry sky.”

Here's an excerpt:
"One berry
Two berry
Pick me a blueberry
Hatberry
Shoeberry
In my canoeberry..."

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