By Sarah Karnasiewicz
July 29, 2022 315 pm ET
EVER SINCE I was a sticky-fingered kid, plucking blackcaps and blueberries from the brambly trails of southern New England, I’ve considered the staccato “kurplink, kurplank, kurplunk” of berries hitting a bucket the defining music of midsummer. These days my berry-picking forays are fewer and further between—a fact I make up for by shopping with abandon when the fruits make their annual appearance at the market. Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, even gooseberries and currants—for a few ecstatic, juice-streaked weeks a year, my kitchen is a parade of pancakes and pies, cocktails and chutneys.
Of course, all rituals require totems—and during this summer bacchanal, mine is a berry bowl. A pottery vessel about a hand’s width in diameter and perforated with a scattering of small holes, it is essentially a petite ceramic colander: just big enough to rinse a cup or two of berries.
What makes these bowls so suited to the task? Caring for berries is a delicate art. To prevent spoilage, it’s best to wash them only when you plan to eat them, according to experts from the Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agriculture and Environmental Sciences. In that case, I leave the bowl out on the counter for easy snacking. (Also, berries taste best at room temperature.) But because berry bowls’ drainage holes let air circulate around fruit, releasing moisture that can spur mold and rot, they are particularly handy for storage. Indeed, I’ve found that swaddling berries gently in paper towel (which wicks away moisture) before tucking them back inside the bowl in the crisper drawer of the fridge, can stretch their shelf life up to a week.
During the sultry months, my bowl is a fixture on our breakfast table, pretty enough to do double duty as a serving dish. Sometimes, in more ambitious moments, I bring it out after dinner too, and sprinkle the berry of the moment with sugar and ribbons of lemon verbena as an Alice Waters-esque dessert.
Does anyone really need a dedicated berry bowl? The answer is no—and as someone who generally shuns fussy, ultra-specific kitchen accouterments, I likely would never have acquired one had it not been given as a gift. Yet it has become one of the most oft-grabbed items in my cupboard. When it isn’t holding berries, I tote it to the garden and fill it with cherry tomatoes. Come fall, it stores my shallots and garlic. Really, I just like to look at it. And at 45—and after these last few years—I’m done apologizing for little pleasures.