Welcome to the 2023 Farmers Market Challenge, where we’re celebrating peak season produce with 5-ingredient recipes. Head right this way for summery dinners (and of course desserts), plus plenty of pro tips.

It’s Saturday morning and hot as can be. You arrive at the farmers market early to scope out the prize, and you’ve found it: plump, ruby raspberries, shining like jewels. Their color is uniform and their texture, slightly yielding. Some of the fruit even has greenery still attached. You pick up and admire carton after carton when one detail hits you: all those teeny-tiny hairs. What are they?

There are two types of hairs on raspberries: coarse strands, known as styles, and white fuzz, known as trichomes. Styles and trichomes serve different functions, but they’re both crucial for the plant’s development.

Styles are connected to raspberries’ drupelets, those little ovals that cluster together and form the fruit. Leftover from pistils, the raspberry’s reproductive organ, the styles connect the stigma and ovary, like a mini-highway for pollen tubes delivering sperm cells to the egg. Wow!

The trichomes are the plant’s built-in defense system. Think of it like a suit of armor covering the fruit, stems, and leaves. “Trichomes produce chemical compounds that act as deterrents, warding off insects and preventing fungal infections,” says Alex Tinsman, founder of How to Houseplant.

According to Zahid Adnan, founder of The Plant Bible, “These delicate hairs are actually glandular structures that secrete a waxy substance.” So beyond deterring hungry predators, they also “help reduce water loss by creating a microclimate around the berry, protecting it from excessive evaporation.”

Raspberries are far from the only fruit covered in trichomes. “[Kiwi] showcases a fuzzy texture, peaches…possess a velvety fuzz, and tomatoes may exhibit trichomes on both leaves and fruit,” Tinsman says. Also team trichome: passion fruit, lychees, and gooseberries.

Though the spiky fuzz may deter some hungry herbivores, don’t let it deter you. Trichomes are perfectly safe to eat. And in fact, raspberries without trichomes wouldn’t be all that appetizing—they’d be shriveled and dry, and that’s only if animals didn’t eat them first.

That said, if you see white fuzz on raspberries, take a closer look. Trichomes are practically translucent and tough to distinguish from afar. Mold is more opaque and overtly visible. And unlike trichomes, this is not harmless.

“White mold on raspberries is typically caused by a fungus called Botrytis cinerea,” says nutritionist Paul Claybrook. It’s a common culprit in humid conditions and thrives on damaged fruit. If only a couple berries have mold spots, it’s usually safe to toss those and eat the rest, Claybrook says.

To avoid your odds of mold, store unwashed raspberries in a shallow, breathable container in the refrigerator. “Avoid stacking the berries too deep, as it may cause bruising or crushing,” Adnan says. And aim to eat them within a few days. That part’s easy.

Put these juicy pork chops at the top of your raspberry wishlist—and thank the trichomes for making them so delicious.

Pork Chops With Fiery Raspberry ChimichurriThe classic Argentine condiment gets reimagined with tart-sweet raspberries and spicy Calabrian chiles for a burst of summertime flavor.View Recipe

Editor’s note, July 25, 2023: This article has been updated to include additional information.

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