Thursday, 19 June 2008

Britain's new super berries

Around midsummer berries reign supreme in the seasonal fruit kingdom. The sweetly perfumed English strawberry may be king, but gooseberries are approaching their best towards the end of June and tayberries, a Scottish hybrid of the blackberry and the raspberry are ripening, too.

Gooseberries are tart and green early season but soften in taste and texture over summer. Use in crumbles or pies, poach then purée to make the classic fool, ice cream, or a tangy sauce for rich roasts like pork or oily fish such as mackerel.

Purple tayberries can be a touch sharp but work well, like blackberries and raspberries, in summer pudding, pies, sorbet, or in fruit sauces, jams and jellies.

There are now rivals to these traditional soft fruits. Growers of the new aronia berry (or chokeberry) on a farm in Angus, in Scotland, claim that it’s a “super berry” with more antioxidants than blueberries and cranberries. It’s available in juices and smoothies at Juice Almighty bar in Edinburgh (0131 220 6879).

And if you can’t decide between a punnet of strawberries or raspberries then Waitrose has the answer. Dutch-grown Strasberries originate from a wild strawberry breed but are smaller with darker seeds, hence the link to raspberries. Try them dipped in melted dark chocolate.

To match the tart-sweet balance of a creamy gooseberry and elderflower fool try a Coteaux du Layon from the Loire Valley. Yapp Brothers in Mere, Wiltshire (01747 860423), has a Château la Tomaze 1995 (£18.50) made from 100 per cent chenin blanc grapes. It’s a golden wine with unctuous raisin fruit and subtle honey and mineral flavours.

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