Select berries that are glossy, plump, and the deepest color of their variety, and with no sign of mushiness or mold. When berries are sold by the box, turn it upside down to make sure there is no stain or moisture on the bottom, indicating an over-ripe berry or two has dissolved. Inspect for mold - one small spot can make every berry in the box taste moldy.

When you get home, immediately spread the berries on a towel and remove any that are not perfect. Eat any crushed berries soon. Refrigerate the rest, unwashed, layered between paper towels. Just before serving, place the berries in a colander, dip into a quantity of cool water, and gently swish; then lift out, shake off the water, and gently pat dry on a cloth.

  • Blackberries: Picked firm, the many offspring of the wild Pacific blackberry are tart-good for canning and pies. Picked fully ripe, they are fully soft, fragrant, sweet, and best eaten raw. One form of blackberry or another is in season from June through mid September. Select all forms as for red raspberries. They do not last for more than a day.

  • Boysenberries are long, maroon, and almost seedless. Their flavor is sweet-tart, rather like raspberries, with a distinctive fragrance. They are of excellent quality and berries may be a cross of red raspberry and blackberry. Most people who have tasted them think these large, juicy, slightly tart, burgundy-red berries are the finest flavored of all berries and the best for cooking.

  • Marion berries (pictured above) and olallie berries are medium to large, shiny black, and sweet, with the hint of a wild blackberry flavor. Marion is the most popular blackberry, especially fine in desserts.

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  • Syvan berries are a cross between boysenberry and marion berry. They are large, shiny black, mild, and very sweet.

  • Tayberries are another raspberry and blackberry cross. Very large, purple-red, and cone shaped with solid centers, tayberries must be enjoyed where they grow, as they are too soft to ship.

  • Yongberries are purple-black, similar to boysenberries but sweeter. They make refreshing juice.

The New All-Purpose Joy of Cooking