Since summer fruits such as strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries perish so quickly, they are best enjoyed as soon as they are picked. No one knows that better than the fruit-loving nation of Germany. Local farmers markets in Germany are centuries-old traditions and a family outing to a “pick-your-own” fruit farm to gather fresh strawberries, raspberries, cherries, apples and many other types of fruits and vegetables is a favorite pastime.
Many Germans are followers of the co-called “Slow Food” grassroots movement and are dedicated “localvores,” meaning that they prefer to eat food that is locally or regionally produced and leaves less of a carbon footprint on the planet.
Germany and America have many of the same summer fruits in common. In the U.S., strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries are the most popular. In Germany, these are also summer favorites, but other berries such as gooseberries (Stachelbeeren), cranberries (Preiselbeeren), elderberries (Holunderbeeren) and red currants (Johannisbeeren) are also widely used in German cuisine. Plums (Pflaumen or Zwetschgen) are another favorite summer fruit in Germany, particularly in the southwestern state of Baden-Württemberg, where the growing season lasts from July through September. Together with Rheinland Pfalz, Baden-Württemberg produces about two thirds of all plums harvested in Germany.
Summer passes quickly and so does the opportunity to enjoy the cornucopia of fresh, ripe summer fruits. Germans know how to make the most of the short season and use summer fruits in a variety of ways to maximize their enjoyment. Summer berries are the essential ingredients in the cold summer dish (Kaltschale) known as Rote Grütze, which has been enjoying a resurgence in popularity over the past few years. Served with a spoonful of quark or vanilla pudding, this makes for a healthy, refreshing dessert during the summer months. Any selection of berries can be used, but at least one of them should have a tart taste and red currants are a must. Dried plums are used in another Kaltschale dish known as Plumi (or Pluma) Moos, a recipe that brings back many memories for American Mennonite families. While not eaten in great quantities in its raw state, the rose hip (Hagebutte) or fruit of the rose plant also features prominently in German cuisine. Rosehips make a deliciously sweet jam with a slight tang and vivid red-orange color. In addition to using Hagebuttenmarmelade on bread and toast, the jam is used for filling Krapfen (donuts) in the Franken region of Germany. Rose hips are also used to make fruit wines and liqueurs and a large percentage of fruit teas sold in German stores are rosehip flavored.
Summer fruits are also used to make tempting desserts, cakes and pies such as Zwetschgenkuchen or plum cake, Kirschtorte (cherry torte or cherry pie), Obstsalat (fruit salad), Erdbeerstrudel (strawberry strudel) and the list goes on. You can find an excellent guide to German fruits with a wealth of recipes on
Year round, there’s something so very perfect about enjoying summer fruits freshly picked and preserved at the peak of flavor.With summer fruits so bountiful, yet summertime so short, Germans are fond of preserving fruits by freezing and canning them and making jellies, jams and marmalade. In any German supermarket you’ll find an incredible selection of fruit spreads made with all types of fruit bearing the name “Marmelade”, “Konfitüre,” “Mus” or “Gelee.” You can enjoy many of these unique spreads here in North America. Look for products such as Maintal Hagebutten Marmelade (Rosehip marmalade), Schwartau Heidelbeer Konfitüre (blueberry jam) and Favorit Red Cherry preserves.