Growing up as a Vietnamese-American child along with my twin sister and younger brother, we were exposed to many different foods. Both my parents immigrated here to the United States of America in 1996 and they brought with them the traditional foods and culture that they had back in the motherland. Of course for many of the foods we ate, we had Vietnamese classics such as Pho and spring rolls. But as an Asian-American, I was also introduced to American cuisine as well, especially sweets. Because of this, I often found myself enjoying berry flavored food. I was always fascinated by the taste that berries had and I will always remember the first time I tried one.
In my second year of elementary school, I was part of a reading group that had just recently completed a school project. As a reward, we were given the opportunity to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I remember thinking to myself at that moment, “What the heck is this thing?” But as I lathered spreads on their respective pieces of bread, I was intrigued by the look of the dark purple jelly. I sank my teeth into this sandwich and immediately the sweetness of the grapes within the jelly along with the creamy peanut butter enveloped my mouth. I was amazed by the creation that I consumed. It was my first time ever eating a berry and after that day, I was hooked onto eating more.
Since then, I have always been infatuated with berries. Whether they are grapes, blueberries, raspberries*, strawberries*, or whatever other berry, they will always be special to me. To me, berries are the perfect fruit because they have a mild sweetness, a nice tartness, and a wonderful fragrance to them. They are so versatile and I have eaten so many dishes with berries in them. Comparing American desserts to Vietnamese desserts, they are so much sweeter!
Perhaps the most interesting thing I learned about berries is the use of cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving turkey! It still amazes me that berries are able to be used as an ingredient for so many different dishes. Even though I am growing older and am not able to indulge my sweet tooth as much, I still eat berries everyday! I learned over time that berries have very good nutritional value and to this day, I enjoy eating them in my breakfast. They provide vitamins and minerals, as well as antioxidants that help to fuel me for my long days. I love putting them in my oatmeal and greek yogurt! Berries will always and forever be an essential part of my diet, as they have been since the day that I first discovered them.
*Plant Love Stories Science note: Berry is a scientific term in addition to a common-use term. A berry is a fleshy fruit that is derived from a single ovary of an individual flower. Some of the things we commonly think of as berries - like strawberries and raspberries, aren’t botanical berries - these fruits arise from multiple ovaries, not a single ovary… On the other hand, some things we don’t think of as berries ARE botanical berries, like grapes, cucumbers, and bananas! In this story, grapes, blueberries, cranberries, are botanical berries but strawberries and raspberries are not.
If you’d like to read more about botanical berries and non-berries check out these articles: Bananas are Berries?, by Greta Lorge and Bananas are Berries. Raspberries are Not, by Ada Mcvean and Cassandra Lee.
Dennis is a student studying Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at The University of Colorado at Boulder.
Peanut butter and jelly sandwich photo by Evan Amos from Wikimedia.