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Tony Grist

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Berries [Jul. 28th, 2010|10:04 am]
Tony Grist
I've got nothing against blueberries. They're fine. It's just that they're a bit bland and unexciting. As this guy said on the radio the other day, they're "an easy listening fruit".

It was in a programme all about berries. Apparently the industry talks about major berries and minor berries. Major berries would be strawberries and blueberries- possibly raspberries- and minor berries would be everything else. Apparently the only British supermarket that still stocks gooseberries is Booths.

Until quite recently blueberries were exotic. I'm sure I never saw them in the shops when I was a kid. Their success is down to their hardiness; easy to grow (in the right climate), easy to store and transport. Those blueberries in your local supermarket- that have elbowed the minor berries off  the shelves-  could well have been harvested a month ago. It suited the industry to sell us blueberries, so they marketed them to us as a health-giving superfood. Complete tosh, of course. They're not bad for us, but they're no better than any other fruit. Gah, what saps we are!

I regret the gooseberry. The gooseberry is a wonderful fruit.  We had a gooseberry patch at the bottom of our garden. I remember picking them and "topping and tailing" them with a sharp knife and my mother or grandmother baking them into pies and crumbles. The taste is utterly distinctive and the acid makes your eyes water- but in a good way. I want them back. Please Mr Sainsbury, if you're listening, how about clearing the blueberries out of one just one little bin and filling it with gooseberries instead? You stock 'em, I'll buy 'em. Do we have a deal?

[User Picture]From: steepholm
2010-07-28 09:22 am (UTC)
Couldn't agree more! Blueberries often taste a bit too much like paper for my liking, whereas the goosegog's taste is tart and distinctive. Even its skin is oddly rebarbative, stubbled like a favourite uncle. Don't forget gooseberry upside-down pudding, by the way! That's my favourite.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-07-28 09:26 am (UTC)
Gooseberry jam is good too. Oh, and gooseberry fool.

If I had room to grow things I'd grow myself some minor berries- but I don't.
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[User Picture]From: michaleen
2010-07-28 10:11 am (UTC)
Blueberries are okay, I think. The ones I have tasted from the supermarkets, here, seem insipid. I remember the ones I picked as a child in Nova Scotia being more tasty, but then I suspect everything was more tasty back then. It's possible -- probable? -- that the ones we buy are inferior to berries plucked fresh from the bush.

What you haven't tasted are huckleberries, a small, wild, prostrate relative of the blueberry that grows here in Virginia. Intensely flavored, they are what a blueberry ought to be but isn't.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-07-28 11:29 am (UTC)
We have whinberries. They're tiny and grow wild round here on the moors. They don't turn up in the shops- and you have to be very dedicated to go out and gather them.

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[User Picture]From: aellia
2010-07-28 10:13 am (UTC)
I don't like blueberries at all.
Sour little balls of juice that make muffins look as if they have mould growing in them.
I remember eating the sweeter gooseberries uncooked and the way the prickly hairs felt in my mouth!
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-07-28 11:30 am (UTC)
They would never be my fruit of choice.

We're currently eating our way through a couple of bags of Kentish cherries, bought from a roadside vendor the day before last.
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[User Picture]From: dakegra
2010-07-28 10:27 am (UTC)
one of our allotment neighbours is giving us two of his gooseberry bushes, and said that we could help ourselves to what was left on the others as he already had a freezer full.

I've not really had much experience of gooseberries thus far, but K's mum made a gooseberry crumble, which was divine, and a gooseberry fool, which was utterly wonderful.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-07-28 11:32 am (UTC)
Lucky you!

When I was growing up we had gooseberry bushes and currant bushes and a range of fruit trees- plum, apple and pear- wonderful!
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[User Picture]From: rosamicula
2010-07-28 10:34 am (UTC)
I have spent a week in a country where all the fruit is grown lkocally and actually ripe ( really will 'ripen at home'. When you buy fruit here they ask you when you plan to eat it.

I dont think I am ever going to buy stupidlky expensive flavourless crap in plastic boxes withot having some sort of public fit of anarcho-rage.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-07-28 11:35 am (UTC)
I'm currently munching my way through £5 worth of Kentish cherries, bought from a roadside vendor the day before yesterday.

My father-in-law's plums will be ready in a month or two. I'm really looking forward to that.
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[User Picture]From: veronica_milvus
2010-07-28 12:04 pm (UTC)
I am told that the british public can no longer be bothered to cook gooseberries and rhubarb but prefer to eat berries that can be eaten directly from the punnet without cooking and sweetening.

Are blueberries not the same as bilberries? We used to pick those from the wild when I was a kid and put them into apple pies.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-07-28 01:16 pm (UTC)
That's just sad.

I don't think bilberries can be the same. According to the radio programme I was listening to blueberries don't grow naturally in the UK- and mostly have to be imported from the Americas.
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[User Picture]From: halfmoon_mollie
2010-07-28 12:32 pm (UTC)
Hah. Blueberries are wonderful for you, and it's too bad you're getting them in those little plastic containers. Picking wild blueberries can be fun - and a little scary since in some places you must compete with bears. They are not the least bit papery, and there is nothing like a handful of wild blueberries warm from the sun.

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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-07-28 01:19 pm (UTC)
Most of the blueberries we eat over here will have been lying around for weeks- even months- before we get them.

Fruit always tastes extra special if you pick it yourself.
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[User Picture]From: daisytells
2010-07-28 02:21 pm (UTC)
There is no comparison between wild blueberries and their larger, seedier, tasteless supermarket varieties. The wild ones are much smaller, sweeter, and taste like blueberries. Until I moved back to the city, we would go picking several times every year and each time bring home four or five quarts of the little dears -- it took almost all day for three people to pick that many. And then, oh, the pies! The muffins! Wonderful. I tried making pies with market berries, but they were flat tasting and much too seedy. It is true that the market berries look much nicer, but that is the story with all the fruits sold in supermarkets, isn't it? Much cry and no wool as they used to say.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-07-28 02:55 pm (UTC)
We used to go picking blackberries when I was a kid. There were fields nearby that were full of wild bushes. I could go blackberrying here too- if I had the energy.

I refuse to buy blackberries in the shops.
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[User Picture]From: endlessrarities
2010-07-28 08:36 pm (UTC)
Home-made gooseberry tart was always really yummy....
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-07-28 08:50 pm (UTC)

You can't go wrong with gooseberries.
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[User Picture]From: wolfshift
2010-07-28 11:01 pm (UTC)
Berries are wonderfully good for you. Lots of vitamins and antioxidants without nearly as much sugar as other fruits. For most of the West, less sugar can only be a good thing.

And yes, there's a world of difference between the big, fat, bland "blueberries" you can get in the supermarkets, and proper wild blueberries.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-07-29 08:16 am (UTC)
Blueberries are being sold over here as if they had something that other berries don't- with the result that gooseberries and blackcurrants and redcurrants are being squeezed out of the picture. This is what annoys me.
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[User Picture]From: oakmouse
2010-07-29 02:07 am (UTC)
I can only assume you're getting the worst of the commercially-grown blueberries from America, which have sat far too long in a refrigerator compartment before they reach your stores. Decent blueberries are smallish and have a wonderful, rich, complex, sweet-tart flavor. Nothing like the bland blue mush you get in a big grocery store.

We get ours from the local farmer's market for the three or four weeks each year that the picking season here lasts, and mourn the fact that when we lived in Seattle we could get them for almost three months. We used to go to the farm with a friend in early September, as the season wound down, and buy 40-lb boxes for the winter. We'd haul our box home, open it, bag the berries up in quart bags and freeze them. It made about 24 to 26 bags, depending on how many berries we set aside to eat that week. The bags filled our freezer (a little one that was part of the fridge) to the very top, but we had blueberry cobbler and blueberry sauce and blueberry muffins and blueberry pie all winter long, October through February.

I miss living in blueberry country. *sigh*
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-07-29 08:32 am (UTC)
Most of our blueberries are imported from the US and South America. There have been attempts to set up British blueberry farms, but I gather it's a tricky crop to manage in our climate.

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