When one discusses "the berries," it's quite possible it's the raspberry being recognized. And raspberries are recognizable nowadays in supermarkets and thickets near you; it is their season.
Raspberries are related to the rose and the blackberry. At their best, they are as fragrant as the rose and as sweet as the fattest, juiciest blackberry deep within the thorns.
Though raspberries most often are seen in their red glory, there are also black to purple to golden yellow berries.
The little seed sacs are called drupelets, and raspberry lovers will chase one across the table if supplies are low.
Raspberries are tasty eaten out of hand, folded into fresh fruit tarts, pies, mousses, shortcakes and sorbets, says Carole Bloom in "The International Dictionary of Desserts, Pastries and Confections" (Hearst, $18).
Grow raspberry vines if possible; they're easy to tend and turn an expensive delicacy into daily fare.
At the market, choose bright, garnet-hued raspberries, thimble shaped, with no sign of mold or juice in the half-pint containers. Avoid dull-looking berries; they're overripe.
At home, store in the refrigerator and use within a day or two. Don't wash them until ready to serve. And when you do wash them, do it very gently. Even water pressure can destroy the fragile berries.
Freeze them by rinsing and then air-drying on paper towels. Place in a single layer on a jelly-roll pan; freeze until solid. Transfer to a plastic freezer bag. Figure on half a pint of berries per serving.
This recipe is from "The Silver Palate Cookbook," by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins (Workman, $13)
Raspberry-Sauternes Dessert Soup
1 bottle French Sauternes, chilled
3 cups fresh raspberries
1/2 cup creme fraiche
fresh mint leaves for garnish
The day before serving, make creme fraiche: Whisk 1 cup heavy cream and 1 cup sour cream together in a bowl. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let stand in the kitchen or other reasonably warm spot overnight, or until thickened. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours (the creme fraiche becomes quite thick).
The next day, pour Sauternes into a mixing bowl.
Sort through berries, discarding less-than-perfect ones. Crush about half with a back of a spoon and stir all into the Sauternes. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours.
Just before serving, measure the 1/2 cup creme fraiche into a small bowl. Ladle out 2 cups of the chilled Sauternes and whisk it gradually into the creme fraiche.
Whisk this mixture into the remaining Sauternes in the mixing bowl.
Ladle into chilled soup bowls or champagne tulips; garnish with mint. Serve immediately.