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Storing and Purchasing Fresh Produce

Storing and Purchasing Fresh Produce

Culinary Institute of America

Berries

Most berries are extremely perishable and are susceptible to bruising, mold, and overripening. Thanks to improved methods of shipping, these once-seasonal fruits are becoming more available, giving chefs the options they need to purchase the berries of the best quality year-round.

Because berries (with the exception of cranberries) are so delicate, the fruit itself and its packaging should be inspected carefully before you accept them. Juice-stained cartons or juice leaking through the carton indicate mishandling or age. Once berries begin to mold, the entire batch goes quickly.

Cranberries are almost always cooked. Other berries can be used fresh or as a flavoring, purée, or sauce; in marinades, dressings, or vinegars; or in preserves, ice creams, or fruit desserts such as pies, tarts, and cobblers. When fresh berries are unavailable, IQF (individually quick-frozen) berries are often a perfectly fine substitute. Dried berries can be used in compotes, stuffings, breads, or other sweet or savory dishes.

Most berries are extremely high in vitamin C, a nutrient that breaks down when exposed to heat and air. Cut berries just before serving, and cook them briefly, if at all, to preserve nutrients.

Grapes

Grapes are technically a berry, but because they come in so many varieties and have so many different uses, they are usually grouped separately.

Grapes may have seeds or not. They are used for eating out of hand, cooking, and wine making, and may be dried into raisins or currants. Harvested at different times in different locales, grapes are usually available throughout the year.

Red and black grapes are higher in nutrients than green grapes. They contain more flavonoids and pigments than green grapes. But green grapes are not nutritionally bankrupt—all grapes supply some vitamin C and B vitamins. Dried into raisins, they supply some iron. To help the body absorb this mineral, use raisins in preparations that contain some vitamin C, such as salads.

There are some classic dishes that use grapes as an ingredient: sole Veronique, a poached fillet of sole in a cream sauce, garnished with peeled seedless grapes, is the most famous. For the most part, grapes are usually used in fruit platters, as an accompaniment to cheese plates, or in salads.

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