We all love berries: raspberries, blueberries, blackberries… tomatoes… Oh yes! You may be surprised to learn that tomatoes are berries too. And to make this strange tale even stranger, one of our favorite berries — the strawberry – isn’t a berry at all. That’s because, botanically speaking, berries are fruits produced from one single ovary; the seeds of the strawberry are actually the fruit of the plant. While that’s all well and good, for the majority of us, a berry is any small fruit, including strawberries. But what about lesser known members of the berry family?
Gooseberries are true berries. They are filled with many small seeds. There are thousands of varieties of gooseberries, and they come in many different colors, from green or yellow to shades ranging from pink or red to purple to black. When unripe, gooseberries can be quite sour, but if perfectly ripe, they taste somewhat like Muscat grapes. Ripe gooseberries are difficult to find, so they’re often cooked in desserts, their flavor accentuated with sugar or other sweetners.
If you can find ripe gooseberries, enjoy them plain and take advantage of them. If you can’t, don’t worry. Unripe gooseberries still bake up into delicious gooseberry pies. Oven-roasted gooseberries can be used in gooseberry fool. You can even use gooseberry chutney as an accompaniment to savory dishes like meats.
Hybrids of gooseberries and blackcurrants are called jostaberries. Their unique and deep flavor make a delicious jam, but even if you can’t find jostaberries, you can make a mock jostaberry jam using gooseberries and blackcurrants.
Lingonberries are a traditional Scandinavian berry. Harvested wild in Scandinavian countries, the lingonberry is used in a lot of traditional dishes, including lingonberry jam.
While fresh lingonberries are hard to find in the States, the jam itself is a great ingredient to lend the particular flavor of lingonberries to Scandinavian dishes, like swedish meatballs with lingonberry sauce. You can also find frozen lingonberries in some stores, which are an ingredient in lingonberry sorbet.
Lingonberries are botanically related to the cranberry, and they share a similar flavor. Lingonberries are so full of pectin and natural preservatives that they keep for a very long time, which is how Scandinavians first started using them in jams, which kept all through the winter without even needing cooking.
Red currants are yet another true berry, with a similar flavor to the aforementioned lingonberry. They’re botanically related to the gooseberry, as well as to blackcurrants, which are slightly sweeter to the more acidic red version.
Red currants are extremely delicate, but if you can find them whole, they’re beautiful as a garnish on desserts or savory dishes. Use red currant jelly to make an herb-crusted pork tenderloin with red currant sauce or beef stew with red currant jelly and cream, and garnish the dish with whole red currants.
Of course, red currants can also be used in desserts. Cardamom and red currant cake is a simple and sophisticated choice. And like all berries, red currants are delicious with just a bit of homemade whipped cream on top!
For other delicious berry recipes, try: