Olallieberries and the Varied Backgrounds of Its Many Berry Relatives

Times Staff Writer

Question: Can you please tell me more about olallieberries that you recently featured in one of your drink recipes? I have never heard of such a berry; and it isn't listed in the dictionary. How does it differ from a raspberry, boysenberry or loganberry?

Answer: Olallieberries belong to the blackberry family, as do dewberries, boysenberries, loganberries and many varieties with similar appearance. Varieties vary according to size and shades of blackness as well as degree of tartness or sweetness and firmness.

Originally from Oregon but grown extensively in California, olallieberries are a cross between the black loganberries and youngberries. They are bright black, medium size, firm and sweeter than reddish loganberries, which are more acidic and are grown mostly for canning or drink production. By this time, olallieberries are probably gone from the produce shelves since they only have a short season, about six to seven weeks. Currently coming in from Oregon are Marion blackberries, which are sweeter but softer than the olallieberries.

The boysenberry is a variety of dewberry (a small blackberry with a white blush to the skin). Boysenberries are large, long, dark-reddish black when fully ripe and slightly acidic.

The loganberry is a cross between a raspberry and blackberry. It is large, long, dark red in color with a tart, strong flavor. It was developed in California by a Scotsman.

Aside from color and size, olallieberries and other blackberries differ from raspberries in nutrient content. Red raspberries contain 57 calories per 100 grams or 3 1/2 ounces, whereas blackberries contain 73. Both are a good source of Vitamin C, calcium, phosphorus and potassium. The reds are higher in Vitamin A whereas blacks only have a trace.

Q: I'd like to know how to freeze blackberries properly before I accept a lug of them from a friend who grows them.

A: Freezing blackberries will result in a slight loss of texture and flavor, but they will keep for about three months in a zero-degree freezer. Like other soft berries, they can be frozen with or without sugar or with syrup.

To prepare for freezing, sort the berries, removing any moldy fruit, then wash gently and drain.

For berries to be used in cooked dishes, freeze with sugar. Use three-quarters cup sugar for every quart of berries, mixing until sugar dissolves. Pack in freezer containers and leave a half-inch of head space.

For berries to be served uncooked, freezing with syrup helps retain their shape. Pack the fruit in freezer containers and cover with 40% to 50% syrup, leaving a half-inch of head space. (To make 40% to 50% syrup, dissolve three to 4 3/4 cups sugar in four cups cold water, using a half-cup syrup for each pint container of fruit.)

For those who don't want to use any sweeteners, the berries may be packed dry without sugar in freezer containers, leaving a half-inch head space, then sealed and frozen. The blackberries may also be frozen in pureed or crushed state, adding three-quarters to one cup sugar to each quart of pureed or crushed fruit. Pack and leave a half-inch head space.

Q: Can bananas be frozen? A nearby store sometimes sells ripe ones at a bargain and since I bake a lot of banana breads and muffins, I would like to know how I can keep the bananas in the freezer.

A: Ripe bananas may be placed, peel and all, directly in the freezer, then when ready to use for breads or shakes, simply thaw, peel and mash. The peel will go black naturally, but the inside fruit will suffer only a slight change in flavor, texture and color. For larger quantities, mash the peeled ripe bananas with a little lemon juice to prevent darkening and freeze in airtight containers.

Firmer sweet bananas may also be speared on an ice bar stick, coated with melted chocolate and frozen for future snacks.

Address questions on food preparation to You Asked About, Food Section, The Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles 90053. Personal replies cannot be given. .

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