Many different berries fall into the category of "blackberries" - Marionberries (named after Marion county in Oregon) are perhaps the best known. What they all share is a deep purple, almost black color and an equally deep flavor. They have a woodsy note that is particularly delicious in tarts and jams.
Blackberries are in season starting in May through July.
Blueberries are plump dots of tart sweetness. Wild blueberries tend to be smaller and have more concentrated flavor, cultivated blueberries are bigger and juicier. Watch out, however, for flavorless blueberries, which have become all too common. Luckily, most vendors at farmers markets will give you a taste of their wares before you buy.
Blueberries are delicious in a pie, turnovers, shortcake, Blueberry & Jam Tart, Blueberry Yogurt Cornmeal Cake, Blueberry Almond Crisp, or cobblers. They can also be used to make cooling sorbet or ice cream. They make lovely additions to tossed salads, too - try this Blueberry Blue Cheese Spinach Salad.
Blueberries are in season from June through August.
Cranberries are native to North America, where they grow or are grown in bogs. Hard and tart, they are usually cooked with some amount of sugar, dried and sweetened, or used to make syrups or other preserves. Find recipes for cranberries here.
Cranberries are harvested in September into November.
Gooseberries are small pebble-like green berries with a silvery cast and a sour-tart hit. Because of their intense flavor they are best in jams, pies and other highly sweetened dishes. Gooseberries can also be used—like cranberries—to make sauces that go well with duck and game.
Gooseberries grow in cooler but not harsh climates where they are in season from July into September.
Look for huckleberries in August and September. They are most widely available in the Pacific Northwest.
Raspberries have hollow cores (that's the prime difference between them and blackberries) and come in delicate pink to deep red to golden and even black. Raspberries are perhaps the most delicate of all the berries. Look for matte berries with no bruising or crushing or anything remotely out of sorts – once one raspberry starts to fail, the rest tend to follow quickly.
Since raspberries don't keep well, plan to use them quickly. Rinse berries quickly in cool water just before using and dry by laying gently on a clean towels and patting dry. Try the lightly tangy flavor of raspberries with a bit of cream and sugar or in a Cornmeal Raspberry Cobbler, a Raspberry Peach Bread Pudding, or mashed and used in a simple Berry Fool.
Look for raspberries in June into August.
Salmonberries are, as you might guess, sort of salmon colored. They also have a tendency to grow near streams where salmon spawn, whether on the West Coast in British Columbia up to Alaska, or on the East Coast in Newfoundland. Salmonberries tend to be quite juicy, but can be used like blackberries or raspberries. Like other brambles, they are prolific where they grow wild.
Look for salmonberries handing from their brambles in July and August.
Saskatoon berries are a delight of local eating in many provinces of Canada. They look a lot like large blueberries, in both shape and in their purple-to-blue color. They can be used in a wide variety of ways, including pies, jams, wines, and dried. the First Nation people of the prairies traditionally used these tart and flavorful berries as a way of preserving and adding flavor to dried meat.
Like many wild berries in North America, Saskatoon berries tend to ripen in July and August.
Perfectly ripe strawberries are best eaten out of hand. To jazz them up, hull them, pour heavy cream or good-quality balsamic vinegar over them. Another favorite quick treat is to dip strawberries in sour cream or plain yogurt and then into a bit of brown sugar. Strawberries are also delicious on cereal, as a shortcake, in a smoothie, or baked into Strawberry Ricotta Muffins. Strawberries match up nicely with other berries, melons, and tropical fruits in a simple fruit salad.
Strawberries from California and Florida are available all year round, but ripe local berries are at their best during their traditional season between April and July.