Sunday, July 11, 2010

Boysenberry Bliss

Berry season is my favorite time of the year. In San Francisco’s mild climate, where there is only about a 25 degree swing between summer and winter, I divide the year up into 2 seasons: Berry Season and Boring Season.

Ok, so that might be a bit extreme, but my friend and I like to spend the winter months ranking our favorite berries. Strawberries and blueberries tend to be in the top 2. We debate whether we prefer raspberries to blackberries. Well, now we don’t have to choose…we recently discovered the boysenberry! I’ve had boysenberry jam before, but had never tried a fresh one. There was a booth at the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s market this morning that I’d never seen before. They sold beautiful jams and preserves, and they had an impressive display of plastic clamshells filled with succulent-looking fruit.

Boysenberries look like exactly what they are: a cross between a raspberry and a blackberry. They are large and plump like blackberries but have a deep red base that betrays their crossbreeding. Biting into one sets off a juicy explosion in your mouth. Boysenberries are a grown-up berry. They don’t overwhelm you with tartness, there are very few seeds, and they are more complex than any berry I’ve ever tried before.

The initial flavors are just tart enough to make your mouth water. Then you taste the sweetness that can only be described as a concentrated berry flavor that dances on your tongue. It’s like every berry you’ve ever tasted all rolled into one. The kiddie flavor “mixed berry” wishes it could taste like this. The finish is a lingering reminder of lazy summer days and purple-stained lips from trying to beat the birds to the ripe fruit growing next to my childhood home.

The aforementioned friend was lucky enough to score some boysenberry-cognac sauce from her neighbors. She was also nice enough to share some with me, but don’t worry, I gave her a gorgeous clamshell of fresh berries in the same transaction. It’s nice to have friends who are willing to barter for berries. The sauce was thick, and the deep purple color created a stark contrast against the creamy white yogurt I ate with it. I would love to have the self-control (and budget, at $4/clamshell at the Farmer’s Market) to make this sauce some day, but the berries don’t last long enough in my apartment.

As I’m writing this, there is only one lone survivor sitting in what used to be a bowl of gorgeous jewel-toned boysenberries. I’m sad to eat it, but I hope my new discovery will be present at next Saturday’s market. Well, maybe not too sad…that was delicious!