Fresh berries, with their vivid colors, saturated flavors, lush textures and fragrant aromas are as stimulating to the senses as they are good for your health. These classic fruits, many of which are native to North America, are grown in the U.S. from coast-to-coast, quite literally! California is the leading producer of strawberries, while Maine is the leading producer of wild blueberries, making this adored fruit group loved from sea to shining sea.

Besides being delicious, one of the reasons berries are so popular is that they continue to be named “superfoods” by food researchers. In the past two decades, scientific studies have been done that show the fruits as having potential benefits for fighting chronic disease due to berries’ high levels of antioxidants.

Most people are familiar with the classic ways to use berries: cobblers, crisps, pies and sorbets, but berries go far beyond sweet in the kitchen. Berries pair well with most savory proteins, as in this recipe for Grilled Pork Chops with Blueberry Barbecue Sauce. Strawberries take a nice savory turn in this updated take on a classically delicious cold soup, Strawberry Tomato Gazpacho. Berries complement many types of salad greens, try a spinach salad topped with sliced strawberries and crumbled fresh goat cheese, dressed with a simple balsamic vinaigrette.

Where would breakfast be without berries? Smoothies and berries go together like pizza and cheese! Smoothies are fun to improvise with at home, especially if you keep some frozen fruit on hand. Bananas, berries, and yogurt is a classic, but experiment to find your favorite combination. For some great inspiration and ingredient suggestions, check out Just How Did Smoothies Take Over the World?

Sweets featuring berries are as easy as pie; actually, many of them are much easier! Try Berry Yogurt Ice Pops or a classic Berry Cobbler, for instance. Not feeling that ambitious? Berries make a great topping for ice cream or granola, and make a simple and elegant dessert when paired with a dollop of whipped cream. For a fun alternative to ice cubes, add frozen berries directly to fruity drinks like lemonade and infuse flavor while you cool things down!

Fresh berries are typically in season from late May through September. Look for berries with bright, even coloring and no visible decay. Be sure to turn plastic clamshells of berries over to check all sides, as they are very delicate and bruise and spoil easily. When you get them home, keep refrigerated until just before use, and only wash when ready to eat. Wet berries spoil much faster in the refrigerator. Be sure to freeze whatever you can’t use in a few days, and enjoy luscious, delicious berries year-round!

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