Summertime brings an abundance of luscious berries to please your taste buds and enhance your desserts. Whether you're enjoying freshly picked berries by the bowlful or adding them to pies, pastries, fillings and other sweet treats, include a sprinkling of spices to complement the natural good flavor of berries and kick up the zest.
A dash of cinnamon adds a sweet and woodsy blend of flavor to strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries, while nutmeg livens them up with a sweet, spicy and nutty combination of good tastes. Mace is similar to nutmeg but offers a stronger, more-powerful flavor and is made from the lacy, bright red covering of the nutmeg's seed shell. Anise, native to the Mediterranean, will sweeten berries with a taste of licorice while mint will leave a cool, refreshing aftertaste.
Sharpen the taste of berries and add some lemony-citrus zing by mixing in a small amount of ginger. This strong spice is also used as a food preservative and is promoted by some people as being a medicinal treatment for nausea, seasickness and morning sickness. Cardamom is another pungent spice that is a member of the ginger family and is used extensively in Scandinavian and Arab countries. Cloves also offer a strong, distinctive taste that will sweeten and spice up berries with its combination of both flavors.
Dating back to 500 B.C., coriander is probably one of the oldest spices known to the world and was one of the first brought to America. Though mild, this aromatic spice has a distinctive flavor of lemon and sage and is used in fruity desserts and pastries. Clove and ginger also offer a taste of fruitiness but both are strong spices. Vanilla is the fruit of an orchid plant and one of the world's most expensive spices. Its extract is a popular addition to many sweet recipes featuring berries.
Spices are only intended to complement the flavors of any food. Too much of any spice can be overpowering and steal the flavorful bouquet of a dish or dessert's different tastes. Moderation is the key to enhancing food through the use of spices and they should only be added in small amounts to taste. When cooking and baking with spices, be careful not to overheat because this can cause the spices to turn bitter. Store spices in a cool dark area, such as a pantry and in tightly sealed containers. Their flavor diminishes after about a year and should be replaced for the best taste.