Berries: Small But Mighty?>

Berries: Small But Mighty

by Berkeley Wellness

Our appreciation of berries has deep historical roots. In fact, evidence shows that in Siberia, prehistoric people stored berries in icy pits to ensure a supply during the winters. Thousands of years later, Native Americans made good use of berries by not only eating fresh and cooked berries, but also drying berries to eat over the winter.

Early settlers, who learned about berry-hunting and preserving from the Native Americans, quickly developed a knowledge of the many varieties growing wild in woods and fields. Today, wild varieties are still gathered with enthusiasm, though most of the berries in markets are cultivated.

In common usage, “berry” refers to any small edible fruit—usually juicy, colorful, sweet or sour, and without a pit, though it may have small seeds. This is how we are using the term. However, the botanical definition of berry is a fleshy fruit derived from a single flower and containing a single ovary. Botanically speaking, tomatoes, avocados, eggplants, grapes, watermelons, and bananas are all berries, whereas blackberries, raspberries, mulberries, and strawberries are not.

Types of Berries

Once a summer delight, berries are available in stores most of the year these days. But you'll probably need to check your local farmer's market in season for the less common types.

Berries: nutrition

Berries are rich in vitamin C and, depending upon the type of berry, potassium and pectin, a type of soluble fiber that helps lower cholesterol. Most berries also provide a wide range of phytochemicals, including anthocyanins, which give berries their intense color and may act as antioxidants in the body.

For a full list of nutrients, see the National Nutrient Database:

Berries: Buying, Freezing, and Cooking Tips

Low in calories and high in flavor, berries are an outstanding food choice that can serve as a fresh and succulent snack or be used in a broad spectrum of recipes, from smoothies to pies.