A California chef once told me Northern Michigan’s berries were better than any he’d tasted anywhere. Of course, I agreed. Way better than the tough, seedy, oversize stuff that journeys here from his state and other warmer climes starting in January. That just doesn‘t seem right.

Maybe it’s the long wait that makes our crops so luscious, or perhaps it’s all our fresh air. All I know is when the last pile of snow on my driveway melts down to a murky puddle, and daylight lingers longer than the dark, it’s a good bet the sign at my favorite roadside stop will be posted: Strawberries Today.

That means Early Glows—the North’s sweetest gift. These small, delicate, red-through-and-through strawberries guarantee there’s no turning back. The season is upon us. From now until fall, we can eat our fill of berries—at least four shades of raspberries, fat, juicy blackberries, golden interior blueberries and all those gorgeous huckleberries that grow on the side of the road.

I like my berries naked. Nude, bare, au naturel. So pure, so perfect, they don’t need enhancement. Berries are the stars. They can turn an ordinary cup of granola or yogurt or a bowl of ice cream into a decadent dessert—no sugar necessary. They pair so effortlessly with cream, butter, eggs, nuts, citrus, fresh mint and any fresh fruit that grows Up North—especially peaches.

So let our berries be themselves with these easy recipes: a technicolor salad, a brilliant whipped-cream-and-angel-food trifle, a custardy clafouti, a quick dip in lemon curd with a roll in slivered almonds and a simple smoothie. Or just do what I do most often—rinse some berries, pat them dry and eat them, one by one. After all, they’re what we’ve been waiting for.

Berry Good for You Smoothie

Three kinds of berries with a twist: frozen bananas.

berry smoothie

Lemon-Almond Dipped Strawberries

Lemon curd, almonds, and Early Glow strawberries. The perfect dip.

A Very Berry Trifle

Angel food cake, raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, some heavy cream … yum.

berry trifle

Three-Berry Salad with Melon, Peaches, and Feta

Melon, strawberries, peaches with fresh mint and feta. Delicious and refreshing.

berry salad

Berry Clafouti

Butter, eggs, flour, whipping cream and berries. You know it’s gotta be good!

Berry clafouti

Find more summer recipes!

Photo(s) by Todd Zawistowski