Fragile and expensive raspberries have a matchless perfume like fragrance and incomparable flavour. Despite their apparent delicacy, they are nutritional powerhouses and packed with fibre (thanks in part to their tiny edible seeds). Some of the fibre is soluble fibre in the form of pectin that lowers cholesterol. Their phytochemical content includes such cancer fighters as beta carotene, ellagic acid, catechins, and monoterpenes (which also inhibit cholesterol production). Raspberries are a good source of vitamin C, too.

A bramble fruit like blackberries, raspberries have a delicate structure with a hollow core, so that they have to be handled very gently and eaten as soon as possible. (Once they reach market, they have a shelf life of a day or two.) Choose berries very carefully; they are often packaged in opaque boxes that may conceal inferior fruit beneath a display of perfect specimens on top. If the box is cellophane wrapped, examine the berries you can see, and observe the box for dampness or stains indicating the fruit below may be decaying. If the box is not wrapped, you can remove a few of the top berries and peek beneath. Raspberries should be plump, dry, firm, well shaped and uniformly colored. Pass up berries that are withered or crushed.

Raspberries (in fact berries in general) are the most perishable of fruits; they can turn soft, mushy, and mouldy within 24 hours. When you bring home a box of raspberries, empty it out and check the fruit. Remove soft, over ripe berries for immediate consumption and discard any smashed or mouldy berries. Gently blot the remainder dry with a paper towel. Return the raspberries to the box or, better yet, spread them on a shallow plate or pan and cover with paper towels, then with plastic wrap. Raspberries should be used within a day or two of purchase.

Raspberries freeze beautifully, allowing you to enjoy them practically year round. You can buy packaged frozen berries, but these may have had sweetener added. Freezing berries is simple. Rinse and drain raspberries gently so that you avoid damaging them. Spread them in a single layer on a baking sheet and freeze until they are solidly frozen. Transfer the frozen berries to a heavy plastic bag. They will keep for 10 months to a year.

Sort berries again before serving, discarding any bad ones. Rinse the fruit, drain, and gently pat dry. Frozen berries need not be thawed before using them in recipes, but extra cooking time may be necessary.