Packed full of vitamins and offering a myriad of antioxidants your body can use to fight off disease, berries make an extraordinary addition to any meal. And studies show that flavonoids called anthocyanidins may help to increase mental sharpness as we age. The vibrant color of berries always makes food more fun too. Eating berries for breakfast and enjoying them as snacks throughout the day aids in weight loss, and makes it easy to keep a healthy BMI in check.

Between all the different types of berries available on the market (and in the wild!), it’s almost impossible to get bored with them. There are tons of ways to use berries in your everyday life – put them in smoothies, bake them in pies, blend them into frozen treats, or turn them into homemade raw vegan condiments! Making condiments is easy to do, and enables you to avoid the long list of ingredients typically found on store-bought products. Here are a few options you’re going to fall in love with:

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1. Homemade Jam

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Who doesn’t like jam? It’s sweet flavor and sticky texture makes a perfect pairing with everything from toast and oatmeal, to crackers and pies. But if you look at the labels of those jars of fruit jam on your grocery store shelves, you’ll probably find a host of questionable ingredients to contend with. Artificial sweeteners, high-fructose corn syrup, and not so “natural flavors” can usually be found in store-bought jam. And those that aren’t packed with unnecessary fillers tend to be on the pricey side of the spectrum.

Luckily, you can affordably make your own fresh berry jam at home. Freshly made jam is always tastier than the store-bought variety, and it doesn’t take a ton of ingredients or equipment to create it. Here’s what you need:

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  • A clean mason jar
  • Fresh berries of your choice
  • Dried fruit of your choice (optional, make for a thicker jam and the opportunity to create various flavors. Try dried mango, coconut, or even dried apples!)
  • Chia seeds

The easiest way to make raw vegan jam is to put a couple cups of fresh berries and about half a cup of dried fruit into your blender. Pulse the fruit until it is mushy then throw about a tablespoon of chia seeds to the blender. Mix the concoction on high until becomes the consistency of jam. Try adding a little lemon juice, orange juice, or coconut water to the mix to thin out the jam and implement different flavor profiles.

2. Fresh Salad Dressing

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Berries taste great with greens. Toss a bunch of sliced sweet strawberries and a handful of blueberries with some spinach, and you’ve got yourself a garden of delicious eaten’. A great way to make sure that you get to enjoy your favorite berry flavors every time you take a bite of succulent greens, it to turn your berries into a salad dressing. It’s super easy, and you can make everything from vinaigrettes and creamy dressings, to spicy toppings and sweet drizzles. Check out these options:

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  • Basic Berry Vinaigrette – Blend berries, balsamic vinegar, dates, and lemon juice with a clove of garlic and a bit of water.
  • Creamy Berry Ginger Dressing – Blend almonds, berries, a half inch piece of ginger, and a little sweeter with some nut milk.
  • South-of-the-Border Berry Topping – stir diced tomatoes, blueberries, minced garlic, cumin, some lemon juice, and a little salt together in a small bowl.
  • Sweet Berry Drizzle – Let a handful of fresh juicy berries soak in a cup of orange juice, stirring once in awhile, until the berries bleed into the juice and the juice thickens.

All of these tasty temptations are awesome on romaine lettuce, chopped cabbage, and thinly sliced kale. They can be used with a host of other foods too like mushrooms, sweet potatoes, rice, and veggie wraps.

3. Fruit Salsa

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Fruit salsa is easy to make with berries. You just puree the fruits like you would tomatoes and can then use any other ingredients you like, whether sweet or savory. To go sweet, choose a little healthy sweetener, some lemon juice, and maybe other sliced fruits like bananas, peaches and pineapple. Herbs like mint and cilantro also make great choices. For a savory option, choose additions such as basil, garlic, onion, peppers, and other spices you might find in regular salsa. You can use whatever berries you like, though strawberries, blueberries and raspberries tend to work the best.

Here are some recipe ideas:

It’s best to use fresh berries whenever possible, but don’t be afraid to introduce frozen berries when making your berry condiments. To protect the texture of your concoctions, it is a good idea to drain them while they fully thaw before using them. Enjoy these condiments as berry season arrives!

Lead Image Source: Buckwheat Turmeric Pancakes with Warm Berry Sauce