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Market Fresh: Berries

Once fairly hard to find at farmers markets, locally grown berries are everywhere now: raspberries (both red and golden), blackberries, olallieberries, boysenberries, loganberries, marionberries and blueberries. Though raspberries are familiar to most everyone, some of the others might need a little sorting out.

Loganberry is an old California variety (found in Santa Cruz in the 1880s) that is a cross between raspberry and blackberry. Boysenberries are another California cross (Napa in the 1920s) among blackberries, raspberries and loganberries. Olallieberries, which were developed in Oregon but are widely grown in California, are a combination of blackberry and raspberry. Marionberries are a highly flavored old American cross between two varieties of blackberries.

The flavors of all these berries differ mainly in degree of tartness, with olallieberries and loganberries being the sharpest. Blueberries used to be almost solely the product of cool, wet areas like Maine and the Michigan peninsula. In recent years, new varieties that don't require as much cold have been introduced, and now blueberries are being grown even in Southern California.

How to choose: Look for berries that are vibrantly colored, taut and shiny. Dull or wrinkled skin can be a sign that berries are over the hill. Check the bottom of the basket as well to make sure there isn't leakage from damaged berries that may be hidden.

How to store: Berries are very delicate and should be refrigerated tightly sealed.

How to prepare: Give berries a quick rinse under cold water, but only just before preparing.

Here's one great dish: With good berries, keep it simple: Sugar them lightly and set them aside to exude a little syrup, then fold them into lightly sweetened whipped cream.

-- Russ Parsons

Photo: Annie Wells/Los Angeles Times

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