My Berry Farm

Gathering Berries by Aleria Jensen

Urera caracasana fruits

Urera caracasana fruits (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Gathering Berries
by Aleria Jensen
Published in the September/October 2007 issue of Orion magazine

I KNEEL IN THE MUSKEG, bucket between my legs, cushion of sphagnum moss crimson beneath my rubber boots. My fingers follow an old pattern: pluck, twist, plop into the bucket. Among the browning skunk cabbage beneath the jack pines, clusters of bunchberry announce fall’s arrival like splashes of wine. Nearby my brother leans into the hillside.

I have picked blueberries on this island for as long as I can remember. Before me—mother, father, grandmother. A hundred years, and every year the berries bring their summer glow to our freezers, our ovens, our plates.

The search image for berries lies deep in my body, wherever such inclinations reside. Scan the meadow, the forest edge, the avalanche chutes. Highbush or lowbush? Blueberry or black huckleberry? Wrinkled and wormy or a plump, perfect, purple sphere? My eyes don’t even pause on the empty bushes. Scan left, right. Up ahead—jackpot. A loaded bush, heavy with fruit. Bend over, pick till your back hurts. Fall to your knees, pick. Stretch. Sink back down. The harvest is deeply satisfying, an old rhythm of provisioning for winter, of sharing in what the land has to offer. I am slowed into meditations on the shape of leaves, the rising scent of earth, the gradual cycle of ripening. This is one of the great traditions of my life.

Today, half the berries I touch dissolve beneath my fingers, the water-logged spheres spitting soggy grains from their skins. This has been southeast Alaska’s wettest summer in thirty years. Many of us in the rainy capital city have spent a good deal of time and conversation feeling sorry for ourselves, owing to the particular lack of sunshine this year. And now fall has come, light is waning, water has gotten to the berries. Grumbling, I mutter to my brother about the sodden mush I keep picking. He replies, “The land just gives and gives and gives, and all we do is show up.” Looking up from a bush, he adds, “I think they’re in exceptional condition, given everything they’ve been through.”

I continue to pick and realize he is right. All we do is show up. Wake up, drink our coffee, jump in the car, head for these boggy slopes. Expect the land to provide. And it does. Despite the soggy ones, there are plenty of good berries. Plenty for us, for bears and birds and insect larvae. Plenty for muffins, pancakes, and smoothies. Even if it takes longer to fill our buckets, if some fruits are saturated, if we slip and slide and have to hold our pails high above the dripping branches. It’s part of living among wilderness, in a rainforest. Part of why we love it here.

I find myself feeling a huge gratitude, not only for what the land shares, but what it endures. Given everything they’ve been through. Mid-September, cold mists, no sun by which to ripen, berries still hanging on. I think about the story line leading to each fruit. The poor drainage and low nutrients that give rise to the muskeg. The perennial ericaceous shrub surviving winter temperatures and darkness. The pink blossom opening in April or May. The dusting of pollen that must be exchanged, the hovering of bumblebees and hummingbirds. Each fruit an evolution.

At the end of the day, covered in mud, tongues purple, we tramp down through fog and reddening moss. We stop to pop berries into our mouths, last tastes for the day. These tart ones, so different from the sweet domesticated ones sold by the pint at the supermarket. Within it, each fruit holds what I hold: an accumulation of place. The tangy explosion of these northern berries on the tongue is the landscape communicating itself, an expression of its essential wild character. Taste me—here is your peat moss, your snowmelt, your glacial till. Here is your hemlock root, your jack pine, your overwintering bee. Taste me.


The Benefits of Berries


Berries (Photo credit: KilljoyDivine)

The Benefits of Berries

They’re loaded with fiber, which helps you feel full (and eat less). And they top the charts in antioxidant power, protecting your body against inflammation and free radicals, molecules that can damage cells and organs. A recent study even showed that one-half to one cup of mixed berries a day improved cognition and motor performance in animals. James Joseph, PhD, director of the Neuroscience Lab at the United States Department of Agriculture Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, Boston, which conducted the study, notes that we become more susceptible to the damaging effects of free radicals and inflammation as we age. Berries help prevent those effects by turning off the inflammation signals triggered by cytokines and COX-2s, he says, making them an ideal part of your diet.

To get the optimal health benefits of berries, eat two to three types of fresh, frozen or dehydrated berries each day. Incorporate the benefits of berries into your daily diet with the following suggestions.

Strawberries contain more vitamin C in a one-cup serving than one orange, and are particularly high in folic acid.
How to serve: Top with Cool Whip Lite for a low-calorie dessert or dip in melted low-fat brie cheese.

Blueberries contain 20 types of anthocyanin – antioxidants that give berries their blue-violet and red colors. Other berries contain only three to four.
How to serve: Toss a handful on cereals and yogurt, blend into smoothies or put on a bagel with cream cheese.

Blackberries, Raspberries, Boysenberries each contains 8 g of fiber in one cup, one-third the daily recommended amount (25 g).
How to serve: Blend them with 100-percent fruit juice and heat to make a sauce for lean meats, like fish and chicken.

Cranberries not only combat urinary tract infections by preventing Escherichia coli bacteria from sticking to cells in the urinary tract, but they also are a natural probiotic, supporting healthy bacteria that grow in the gastrointestinal tract and aiding in digestion.
How to serve: Add a cup of fresh or frozen cranberries to bread recipes. Toss dried cranberries in salads or trail mixes.

Rhy Berries

White rye-type bread

White rye-type bread (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Rye berries grow as a grass closely related to wheat and barley. Until about 400 BC this grass was considered a weed. Wheat and barley were the preferred grains and rye berries were ignored by all but the wandering four-legged animals who had an eye for good nutrition.

Until recent interest in rye berries because of their low gluten and high water-soluble fiber content, the use of rye has been spotty in culinary history. Rye berry found a place in rye bread and pumpernickel, in whiskey and vodka, in cereal and animal fodder. The flavor most people associate with rye comes from their experience with rye bread. The flavoring agent in rye bread is caraway seed. Caraway flavor is in no way indigenous to rye berries.

Probably because it will survive a snow storm, rye has been widely used in Eastern Europe where a barley or wheat crop would be wiped out with such freezing weather. From those cold regions you can find bread recipes calling for only rye flour. Such recipes came about because there was only rye flour to work with. Rye berries have been referred to as “black wheat”.
Cooking with Rye Berries: Rye Flour and Whole Rye

As with any grain, freshly ground rye flour will produce a superior loaf of bread. The fresher the better! The answer is to stock up on rye berries and grind them every week or so depending on the amount of baking you do. Store the freshly ground flour in a covered container in the refrigerator.

Most recipes for rye bread call for no more than 1/3% of rye flour to 2/3% wheat flour. Rye is low in gluten which makes it difficult to handle in bread making. A 100% rye bread is very dark and heavy. Adding wheat flour causes the bread to rise better, having a lighter texture much more suited to the Western palate.

In cooking the whole rye berry, rye berries make a fine substitute for the more commonly used rice. The texture is chewy and flavor rather like walnuts. Anyone appreciating the taste of wild rice will enjoy cooked rye berries. To cook, rinse 1/2 cup of berries and place in a saucepan with 1 3/4 cups water and 1/4 teaspoon sea salt. Bring the mixture to a boil then cover and lower the heat. Simmer for an hour or until the rye berries are tender. Drain off any remaining liquid. Use these cooked rye berries as a cereal, as a side dish, as an addition to soup and a countless number of other ways.

One form of rye berry is the rye flake. The flake is made by cutting and rolling the rye berry into a flat affair resembling rolled oats. This form of rye is popular in cereals and in grain mixes for baking bread.

Buying Rye Berries

rye berries B vitaminsIf you are using rye berries on a regular basis you will want to buy in bulk. However, only buy what you think you will use in a nine-month period. After this, the freshness is noticeably going down hill.

Look for a trustworthy supplier of bulk grains who deals in only organic. With all the work of cooking fine food, you want the finest of nutrients in that food. Organic ingredients are of great assistance in your campaign.

You might also look for winter rye. Rye berries can be grown as a winter or a spring crop. The winter rye grows so robustly that it wipes out any of the winter weeds growing in its space. Hence, the farmer has no need for herbicides. This is a little more assurance that your rye berries will be as chemical-free as possible.

Before ordering your rye berries look for the organic certification. If the certification is not apparent, assume there is none. Those certifications are hard to come by and organic growers will surely tell you if they have it.

Buy Rye Berries for Fresh Rye Flour

Our preference whenever it is possible is to make fresh ground flour out of your whole rye berries. You will have a fresher flavor, a better-tasting bread, and your bread will be even healthier as we mention below with the phytic acid and nutrition information. Fresh ground flour is not really difficult to integrate into your kitchen practices if you are already baking anyway. Watch the video for a quick rationale.

Storing Rye Berries

Storing Dry Rye Berries: Keep your rye berries in containers with tight-fitting lids. Keep the containers in a cool dry place and check periodically for bugs. If you do end up with some bugs, pull the container from its location. Pour the rye berries into a large colander at the sink. Rinse the berries in hot water and follow the directions for cooking. Cooked rye berries will keep in the freezer. While the rye is cooking, thoroughly wash the rye container and lid with hot soapy water. Rinse and dry. Keep an eye on other containers for signs of bugs.

Storing Cooked Rye Berries: When cooking rye berries it makes sense to cook a double or triple batch: one for the refrigerator and one for the freezer. Refrigerate leftover rye berries in a closed container within two hours of finishing their cooking. These rye berries will stay useful and tasty for 3-5 days. Frozen rye berries are at peak for a month and then slowly lose quality.

Nutrients in Rye Berries

Rye berries mineralsRye berries will add a nice portion of B vitamins and minerals to your diet. Note in the table below that they are particularly high in manganese. With many grains, we alert readers to their phytic acid content — a substance that can inhibit your absorption of minerals from the rye berries. One great benefit of rye is that it is high in the phytase enzyme that breaks down phytic acid. When rye flour is mixed with wheat, as it is in many bread recipes, the enzymes in the fresh rye flour will help break down the phytic acid in the entire loaf, including in the wheat. This is another reason to grind rye berries fresh into flour in your own home. Check out our sister site on phytic acid for more information.

Sunny Ridge

a strawberry in hand

a strawberry in hand (Photo credit: Moondole)

Welcome to SunnyRidge!

You could say we’re a company that is always growing, but go beneath the surface and you will see that it goes ‘beyond the berries’ to a company culture fertile in fresh thinking. We know that the old way of doing things is no longer the only way. Yet we still make timeless family values like honesty and loyalty part of our daily business. Welcome to our world. Where we’re always bringing new ideas to fruition—and to market. Fresh from SunnyRidge Farm.

Sure, we’re growers, packers, shippers and marketers of fresh berries. But we’re also purveyors of reliability, flexibility and fresh thinking. At SunnyRidge Farm, we wear many hats. Including our thinking caps. So we’re always coming up with more reliable ways and flexible options to supply the market.

Because when it comes to our customers, we deliver more than fresh berries. We deliver on our promise of reliable shipments and quality products.  Our family owned and operated enterprise includes several working parts.  We are growers with company-owned acreage throughout Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and Mexico. We also represent the finest growers from regions throughout North and South America

We are packers and shippers with operating centers in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Arkansas, Michigan, British Columbia, Mexico, Argentina and Chile. Just to name a few.  We are marketers representing contracted growers of blueberries, raspberries, strawberries and blackberries throughout the western hemisphere.

Goji Berries

Nederlands: gedroogde Goji bessen

Nederlands: gedroogde Goji bessen (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is believed that goji berries were discovered by a doctor during a study of a group of people living deep in the Himalayan mountains.  This society was known for its good health.  In fact, many of the residents lived well into their hundreds with few health problems.  Many didn’t even suffer from grey hair.  He wondered what these people were doing to protect their health so effectively.  Upon further study, this doctor discovered that goji berries grew naturally near the wells from which these residents drank.  Goji berries would fall into the water and infuse it with their health promoting nutrients.  Those living in this village also regularly ate these berries.  It is believed that regular consumption of these berries led to the health and vitality experienced by those in this village.
Here are some interesting facts about goji berries:

ORAC testing has revealed that goji berries have antioxidant levels more than ten times higher than blueberries and about three times higher than pomegranates.

Goji berries are an excellent source of many vitamins and minerals including vitamin A, vitamin C and iron.  Per ounce, goji berries contain more vitamin C than oranges.

Goji berries may hold benefits for many ailments and conditions.  They are great for the eyes since they contain high levels of beta carotene. They are an excellent choice for immune system support since they contain more vitamin C per ounce than an orange.  Traditionally goji berries have been used to treat liver problems, depression, allergies, insomnia and diabetes.  They may also lower blood pressure and cholesterol. Many people that regularly consume these berries report feeling happier.  In fact, some call the gojiberry the ‘happy berry’.  They also frequently notice an increase in energy and immune function.

Goji berries are easy to eat and delicious as well.  They also are a great source of protein.  Since they contain more than 20 vitamins and minerals, goji berries contain many of the nutrients needed for optimal health and vitality.

They can be enjoyed by the handful when dried, fresh or frozen.  Goji berry juices may also be available.  You can also soak dried berries overnight and then puree in the blender for a make at home goji berry drink.  Goji berries can also be added to smoothies, yogurts, cereals or salads.  Goji berries have a strong and unique flavor.  Many people find that these berries pair excellently with nuts.  Try them with cashews or almonds for a delicious treat.

Of the many superfruits available, goji berries are one of the most revered.  This small red berry has been used in medicine for thousands of years.  It is popular around the world as a tasty way to get more nutrients and antioxidants.

The Berry Botanic Garden

Portland State University

Image via Wikipedia

Advancing the Art and Science of Banking Seeds

In 1983 The Berry Botanic Garden conceived of and built the first seed bank for rare and endangered plants in the USA. The BBG’s conservation program, which operates the seed bank, is known nationally for its expertise in plant conservation methods that involve banking seeds for research and as a safe house for genetic material.

In response to diminishing support for operating a public garden, The Berry Botanic Garden closed its gates to visitors in October, 2010, but its world-famous seed bank continues to serve the conservation community. Better still, it is poised to expand and flourish in a new location. In 2011, the seed bank will relocate to Portland State University-to a new state-of-the art seed vault and plant conservation laboratory.

Relocating the Rae Selling Berry Seed Bank to Portland State University guarantees: A secure future for the oldest seed bank for rare and endangered plants. Expanded research into the science and practice of seed collection, storage and reintroduction. Abundant opportunities to educate Oregon’s future scientists, citizens, and conservationists. An institutional environment where we can explore ways to use seed banks to blunt the effects of global climate change and to better support large scale ecological restoration efforts. 

In anticipation of the move to PSU the BBG board of directors launched a fund-raising campaign in 2010 to support the construction of the new seed vault and the establishment of the program at PSU. The board is especially grateful to John Gray for creating the John Gray Oregon Native Plant Conservation Challenge through which $25,000 of matching funds was donated to the Seed Bank Campaign, and which created a powerful motivation for other donors. 

You may still join our efforts by contributing generously to the Rae Selling Berry Seed Bank. Donate through PayPal by clicking on the “Donate” button to the right, or call 503-636-4112 ext 102. You may also send checks to:

Seed Bank Campaign
The Berry Botanic Garden
11505 SW Summerville Ave
Portland, OR 97219

Wendell Berry

Wendell Berry speaking in Frankfort, Indiana

Image via Wikipedia

WENDELL BERRY was born in Henry County, Kentucky, in 1934. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Kentucky in 1956 and continued on to complete a master’s degree in 1957. In 1958, he received a Wallace Stegner Fellowship from Stanford University.
Berry has taught at Stanford University, Georgetown College, New York University, the University of Cincinnati, and Bucknell University. He taught at his alma mater, the University of Kentucky from 1964-77, and again from 1987-93.

The author of more than 40 works of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, Wendell Berry has been the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship (1962), the Vachel Lindsay Prize from Poetry (1962), a Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship (1965), a National Institute of Arts and Letters award for writing (1971), the Emily Clark Balch Prize from The Virginia Quarterly Review (1974), the American Academy of Arts and Letters Jean Stein Award (1987), a Lannan Foundation Award for Non-Fiction (1989), Membership in the Fellowship of Southern Writers (1991), the Ingersoll Foundation’s T. S. Eliot Award (1994), the John Hay Award (1997), the Lyndhurst Prize (1997), and the Aitken-Taylor Award for Poetry from The Sewanee Review (1998). His books include the novel Hannah Coulter (2004), the essay collections Citizenship Papers (2005) and The Way of Ignorance (2006), and Given: Poems (2005), all available from Counterpoint. Berry’s latest works include The Mad Farmer Poems (2008) and Whitefoot (2009), which features illustrations by Davis Te Selle.

He lives and works with his wife, Tanya Berry, on their farm in Port Royal, Kentucky.

Visit Wendell Berry

Robert Berry

Making Ambrosia's specialty - Martinis

Making Ambrosia's specialty - Martinis (Photo credit: mauitimeweekly)

Robert Berry – Grammy nominated recording artist, song writer, producer and performing musician.

From his breakthrough work with Bay Area stalwarts, Hush, to his dramatic leap to international renowned with ´3´ featuring Keith Emerson & Carl Palmer, to his performances with the legendary Ambrosia, combined with his long running project – Alliance, with members of Boston, Sammy Hagar and Night Ranger, along with his consistent rise as a much in demand record producer and most recently, as purveyor of the low end with Greg Kihn. Proving that there is never a dull moment in Robert´s world.

Visit Robert here.

Beachbum Berry

One of Imbibe magazine’s “25 Most Influential Cocktail Personalities of the Past Century,” Jeff “Beachbum” Berry is the author of five books on vintage Tiki drinks and cuisine, which Los Angeles magazine has called “the keys to the tropical kingdom.”  He’s been profiled in the New York Times, Wine Enthusiast magazine,, the New Orleans Times-Picayune, and the Miami Sun-Sentinel; he’s also been featured in the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post, and Class magazine.

Jeff created the cocktail menu for the Luau in Beverly Hills, which the New York Times cited as one of the nation’s 24 “Bars on The Cutting Edge,” and co-created “Tiki+” for iPhone, a drink recipe app which Macworld magazine called “beautifully rendered and, thanks to Berry’s tireless reporting, impeccably sourced.”  Jeff’s original cocktail recipes have been printed in publications around the world, most recently Bon Appetit and Fine Cooking magazines, Food & Wine Cocktails 2010, and the 67th edition of the Mr. Boston Official Bartenders Guide; his drinks have been served at PDT in Manhattan, Smuggler’s Cove in San Francisco, Okolemaluna Lounge in Hawaii, Paparazzi in Bratislava, Taboo Cove in Las Vegas, Rivera in Los Angeles, Boutiq’ Bar in Budapest, and Hula Bula in Australia, among others.

Jeff has appeared on Martha Stewart Living Radio and Radio Margaritaville, has written for Saveur and Caribbean Travel & Life magazines, and currently conducts tropical drink seminars and tastings across the U.S. and Europe.  His Tropical Bar School, co-founded with internationally acclaimed spirits educator Stanislav Vadrna, is now entering its third season on the Mediterranean isle of Ibiza.  Jeff serves on the advisory board of the Museum Of The American Cocktail.

Steve Berry

Cover of "The Charlemagne Pursuit: A Nove...

Cover of "The Paris Vendetta: A Novel"
Cover of The Paris Vendetta: A Novel

I must say that Solmaz Hafezi is a HUGE fan of  Steve Berry is the New York Times bestselling author of the Cotton Malone series featuring The Jefferson Key, The Emperor’s Tomb, The Paris Vendetta, The Charlemagne Pursuit, The Venetian Betrayal, The Alexandria Link, and The Templar Legacy. He also has three stand-alone thrillers: The Third Secret, The Romanov Prophecy, and The Amber Room —- and two e-book original short stories, The Balkan Escape and The Devil’s Gold. He has 14 million books in print, which have been translated into 40 languages and sold in 51 countries. Steve’s road to publishing was long and arduous, spanning 12 years and 85 rejections over 5 separate manuscripts. He’s also an accomplished instructor, having taught writing to audiences across the globe. When Steve’s not writing, you can find him either on a beach, a golf course, or traveling — discovering more things lost — thinking of the next novel. He lives in the historic city of St. Augustine, Florida. Steve and his wife Elizabeth have also started a foundation, History Matters, dedicated to aiding the preservation of our heritage.