Imagine yourself walking down a row of colorful tents and crates of produce on a sunny spring Saturday morning. A flannel-wearing berry farmer offers blueberries by the bucket while a booth selling other seasonal produce shows off its bright red strawberries. Springtime marks not only the entrance of cherry blossoms and sunny days in Berkeley but also the beginning of the best fruit season — or should we say the berry best. (Sorry, we had to do a berry pun at some point.)
And because we couldn’t get our fill of berries at the farmers market, we headed down to Oregon Street, where rows of raspberries, blackberries and other berries have begun to make their way into the produce section of Berkeley Bowl. Buckle up folks: We’ve tried them all. Or, we’ve at least tried all five kinds of berries — strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and, surprise entry, grapes — and definitively ranked them. Let’s get after it!
5. Honorable mention: Grapes from Berkeley Bowl
Grapes, kiwis, bananas and cranberries all fall under the umbrella of berries but feel closer to the least, the lost and the left out in the fruit world. Consider your mind changed. Like strawberries, grapes are a whole meal. The comforting mouthful and the hearty chomp all stand as reasons why these green queens round out every elite elementary school snack.
But why green grapes over purple, you may ask? For the same reason that green apples take the cake, green grapes offer a sour edge that purple grapes could never provide. That sourness complements their high sugar content to create a more balanced flavor palette. What’s more, grapes are good fresh but better frozen. And putting frozen grapes into other fruity beverages? We’re already on our way over.
4. Raspberries from Berkeley Bowl
The dream child of strawberries and blueberries, raspberries are a perfect size — bite-sized, but large enough that they do not necessitate a blueberry’s handful. Light, punchy and novel in flavor, these delicious berries are easy like Sunday morning.
Nevertheless, raspberries’ quick expiration cannot be shelved. In a single afternoon, these lovely ladies go from well-toned and whole to deflated and disintegrating berry bits. While making your way through a raspberry container, Post Malone’s “I Fall Apart” fades in when you reach the sad, damp, raspberry remnants left to mold on the bottom.
This is a side effect all fruits suffer from, but you can’t really freeze a raspberry to preserve its texture. This disparaging reality has an unfortunate ranking consequence for raspberries, bumping them down to fourth place.
3. Strawberries from the farmers market
Lipstick red and juicy, these berries got back. Completing every picnic and sunny day escapade, strawberries never disappoint, righteously earning their place as a fan favorite. But the storied past of strawberries will only earn them a measly third place here.
Nailing the part of a childhood bully, strawberries reached their peak in high school — helpless without their posse of whipped cream, sugar or a banana smoothie combo. Similar to blueberries, you also know exactly what you’re getting into with a strawberry. Although the consistency is laudable, the flavor just isn’t that special. You can find strawberry flavors everywhere, from Skittles to Twizzlers to the consumerist Strawberry Shortcake.
To their credit, strawberries embody the phrase “eat your water” with each hydrating munch. But what we have to conclude is that strawberries only think they’re the main character with their bright, glossy appearances. Don’t be fooled by their facade.
2. Blueberries from the farmers market
After much thought, blueberries take our second-place slot. The sour bite of a blueberry’s skin pairs beautifully with the fruit’s natural sweetness — truly a chef’s kiss for mother nature.
Popping a few blueberries into your mouth creates a wonderfully well-rounded experience, made consistent by the variety of textures and flavors in every basket. Take a handful of these blue baddies, and you’ll get a slightly purple few that absolutely burst with tartness, alongside a few darker blue babies with a bit of a comforting, sweet mush.
The size differentials in taste and texture are also significant. Small berries are tarter and firmer while big berries are saucier and softer. Personally, we would recommend that you eat the more purple or slightly smaller berries on your first pass and freeze the larger berries for complete satisfaction.
But at the end of the day, blueberries are just … blueberries. Let’s be honest: They just aren’t that flavorful. The lovely overall sensory experience is a bit negated by their overarchingly neutral flavor, keeping them from our top ranking.
1. Blackberries from Berkeley Bowl
We’ll just come right out and say it: Nobody is doing it like blackberries. Confident but not cocky, this magical berry’s taste combines a raspberry’s sometimes overwhelming tartness with its own shallow undertones of sweetness.
Although we do acknowledge that blackberries are kind of seedy — the partially grainy mouthfeel will leave you with seeds lodged in your teeth for a second —the juice bursting from the berry balances out that off-kilter texture.
There’s also a very real risk of stained hands and a purple T-shirt: but the reward? A slam dunk of a berry. Blackberries are powerfully subtle in flavor, yet possess a sweet, snappy kind of texture when you bite into one of those mini berries that make up the larger berry.
It’s not every day that you get to eat a blackberry, making every taste you get that much more special. Hats off to the real main character.
Phew. That was a doozy. You might be upset, absolutely miserable or utterly dissatisfied at our third-place ranking of strawberries. And you know what, that’s OK. No one (you) gets to be right all of the time. We’ll be here whenever you’re ready to digest the realization that this is the ultimate berry power ranking.