Berries are precious. Not only because of their cost—about the same as a cup of coffee these days ($6-7, for those of you reading in the future and want to know what inflation was like in 2023; sorry if it’s gotten worse!). To me, their value lies more in the potency of their nutrition, reflected in their truly peerless taste. Like their fellow superfoods, berries boast a list of health-supporting benefits that’s wildly disproportionate to their size. From antioxidant (evident in their wine-dark pigment) to anti-inflammatory (which doesn’t mean they work the same as Advil) to anti-cancer, as well as being a just-right blend of sweet and sour and astringent, berries’ properties make them just about the best choice when it comes to fruit (the Ayurvedis said it was grapes, but I gather that was more of a location thing; and red grapes have similar properties to berries in the end).
A Westerner reading this might think: ack, I need to eat berries every day! And many do (I did, or tried to, at some point). Hence the prevalence of frozen berries, blended into smoothies, and berry concentrates (here’s lookin’ at you, elderberry), tossed back as shots. The Eastern approach is slightly different, as you might imagine. Berries even with all their goodness, have a time and a place just like all foods. So we can stock up in the summer, when they’re ripe and ready, but let them linger as a fond memory the other seasons of the year. If you think about it, berries in summer is the ideal preparation for fall: sweet and juicy but light on the digestive system, they transform easily into ojas that, like berries’ irresistible syrup, coats our channels and builds our defenses against future pathogens. In this sense, their preciousness is thus aptly reflected in their cost—and a reminder to treat them with reverence when they grace us with their presence, as their after-effects will linger long past their harvest.
A bowl of berries with a drizzle of honey and sprig of mint is divine. Transforming them into a compote like this, however, enhances their ability to stick around (as immunity, that is) well into fall and winter. The gentle saute in ghee and spices, and the burst of acid at the end, helps to break down the berries’ cell walls, which while thinner than those of dense veggies like beets and kale, still is a barrier between their inner goodness and us. Kissed by an external agni, the berries then greet our agni like the old friend we meet up with every summer, and though twelve months have passed since your last date you pick up conversation like you saw them yesterday.
Enhancing berries’ medicinal properties in this delicious compote recipe will help you—and your wallet—feel better about indulging in these seasonal gems!
Fig and Berry Compote
- 1/2 teaspoon ghee or coconut oil
- 1 inch fresh ginger, grated or finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 pint fresh blueberries
- 12 ounces fresh blackberries
- 6 dry figs, chopped
- Squeeze fresh lemon juice
- Pinch flaky sea salt to garnish
- In a large skillet over low heat, warm the ghee and spices. Stir to coat the spices in the ghee, and let them blossom for about 1 minute (until fragrant). Watch as the ground spices burn easily.
- Add the blueberries, blackberries, and figs to the pan. Stir to coat in the spices and ghee. Cook over medium heat for about 6 minutes, or until the fruit starts to reduce and create a syrup.
- Remove from heat, stir in the lemon juice, and add a pinch of sea salt as desired. This compote is delicious stirred into oatmeal or other warm grains, spread on toast (mash it a bit with a fork, and add a drizzle of honey), or on its own as a light, agni-friendly summer meal.
Find a similar recipe in Root & Nourish!