* Use local fresh fruits in season for the most flavor.

* Choose the ripest, most fragrant berries with no soft spots or mold and no smell of fermentation.

* Buy organic berries so that you won't have to wash them (unless they're sandy or dirty). Washing leaches out the juice--and with it the flavor. The only berries that will survive washing with their taste more or less intact are the firmer ones, like blueberries and strawberries. Raspberries and other delicate berries won't make it.

* If you must wash berries to remove dirt or pesticide residue, don't hull them first: a berry without its stem collects water. Rinse a few at a time in a colander, using lukewarm water. Gently pat them dry with a soft cloth towel.

* Use berries right away. Though most can be refrigerated for up to three days in a bowl or basket lined with a paper towel, they'll lose some fragrance and taste.

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