Soft fruit is fruit that is mainly available in the summer months.
Belgium grows a lot of strawberries: about 42 million kilograms a year. About 20% stays here, while the rest is exported abroad. Our strawberries are mainly to be found in England, Germany and the Scandinavian countries.
Actually, strawberries are not really fruits, what we eat is in fact the swollen 'receptacle' of the plant. Still they are delicious, either on their own or in a fruit salad or with ice cream. Wild strawberries are a bit smaller, but they taste even sweeter. Not only do strawberries taste lovely, they are also very healthy too! They are rich in vitamin C, offer protection against chills and fatigue, and also help wounds to heal faster. In the Middle Ages, they were used by alchemists against all sorts of ailments. But in Roman times, they were eaten by chic ladies mainly because they left their lips so lovely and red!
Redcurrants and white currants
Redcurrants and white currants are the same shape. The only difference is the colour and the taste. The white ones are a little sweeter than the red. Both kinds are healthy, because they are bursting with vitamins and minerals. Buy Belgian currants if you can, because they will be fresher. And they smell and taste so good!
Blueberries used to be found only in the woods. However, nowadays, they are only grown by professional growers. This has meant that their period of availability has been greatly extended. Blueberries are handy to eat, you can leave the skin on and there are no stalks to worry about. And kids love them because they end up with completely black tongues!
Gooseberries are about the same size as grapes, and come in green or red. The red looks more ripened, but all gooseberries can be eaten as they are. They also make delicious jam.
A blackberry is not just a blackberry, they come in over 2000 kinds! The berry itself consists of lots of little balls which combine to form a fruit. They grow on brambles (with nasty thorns!). They have a very fresh taste which is perfect for desserts.
The well-known kind is the red raspberry, but there are also yellow, pink, orange, brown and even black kinds! The Ancient Greeks said that the fruit got its red colour through the intervention of Zeus, the greatest of the gods. While the beautiful young maiden Ida was picking berries for him, she pricked her finger and the white raspberries turned red. Raspberries, too, are made up of lots of little balls. They are very juicy, soft and sweet.
Ah, Belgian grapes! In general, they are regarded as the best fruit in het world. They are grown in a very natural and artisanal way, with no chemical sprays. Every bunch is pampered: when they are forming, the grower hand-picks off the smallest and ugliest grapes. This gives the others more room to grow extra large. The top Belgian black grapes go by the names Royal, Leopold III, Colman and Ribler. The white grapes are Muscat Baldoir and Canon Hall.
Grapes grow in a bunch on a vine. The plants are called vines because grapes are very often made into wine. But simply eating them just as they are will not, of course, get you drunk! Unless you get drunk on all the vitamins and grape sugar (dextrose). That's why you so often give them to people who are ill. And when they are dried they become even sweeter and we call them raisins.