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Strawberries are a staple in American kitchens, and for good reason. They are low in calories, high in vitamin C and taste delicious. They can be a highly affordable addition to your grocery cart, and they are easy to grow. But unless you learn how to make strawberries last longer, they can quickly turn into a moldy, mushy mess that ends up in the trash bin or compost pile.
You can do several things to help strawberries — or other types of berries, such as blueberries, raspberries and blackberries — extend their shelf life as much as possible. From selecting the best berries at the right time to cleaning them properly to using adequate storage solutions, you can easily get the most bang for your strawberry buck with a bit of know-how. And if you still can’t use them right away, there are things you can try to avoid tossing them in the garbage.
The Best Time To Buy Berries
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture SNAP-Ed Connection Seasonal Produce Guide, strawberries are in season throughout the spring and summer months.
If you are fortunate enough to have a berry farm close by, purchasing just-picked strawberries can give you fruit that stays fresh longer. Local farmers’ markets can be an excellent source of ripe, juicy berries as well. But even if you purchase the fruit from your neighborhood supermarket, you can enjoy every bite when you know how to make strawberries last longer.
Unlike some other fruits, strawberries do not continue to ripen after they are picked. So when you are shopping for fresh berries, look for bright red fruit that has fresh-looking green caps. In addition, strawberries should be firm to the touch and not bruised, mushy or moldy-looking. Even one bad strawberry in a container can spread mold spores, making the remaining berries go bad quickly.
How To Make Strawberries Last Longer
Removing any mold spores and harmful bacteria, even if they are invisible to the eye, can help your strawberries last longer. A few minutes in a mixture of white vinegar and water can keep them from going bad.
A simple way to wash the berries is to place a colander in a larger bowl. Alternatively, use a salad spinner, which has a similar setup. First, fill the bowl with three parts water and one part vinegar. Then, place the strawberries into the colander and dunk them into the liquid mixture. You can let them soak for several minutes without affecting the taste of the berries.
Swirl them in the vinegar water to wash them. After a quick soak, let them dry before putting them away. The Kitchn recommends placing the strawberries in a salad spinner lined with paper towels and then giving them a good whirl.
The Best Berry Storage Options
Another thing experts say to avoid is washing strawberries and then placing them back into their original container. Instead, store them in a loosely-covered, paper towel-lined container that prevents trapping moisture.
You can also buy special containers designed to help strawberries last longer. For instance, the iDesign Crisp BPA-Free Plastic Produce Storage Bin has a double-layered design that keeps berries and other produce dry to avoid mold. The modular, stackable bins are about $15 on Amazon.
Similarly, the OXO Good Grips GreenSaver Produce Keeper features an enhanced carbon filter that traps and absorbs ethylene gas. This slows the aging process and reduces spoilage. In addition, the elevated colander lifts berries up and away from the container walls, promoting airflow from all sides. This container comes in three sizes and starts at about $15 on Amazon.
Other Ways To Store Strawberries
If you got a great deal on berries (or have your own backyard strawberry patch), but you can’t use them all up before they go bad, you can keep them even longer if you know how to. Make strawberries last longer by freezing or canning them.
To freeze strawberries, hull them after cleaning them. Next, slice the berries in a way that will work when you want to use them (for instance, if you plan to make pies, you may need them quartered). Then, place them in a single layer on a baking sheet and pop them into the freezer.
Place the berries in the freezer for at least one hour and up to four hours. Then, pop them into freezer storage bags or freezer-safe containers when they are fully hardened. If you plan to freeze strawberries, you should do so within three days of bringing them home.
Another option is to preserve the berries by canning. If you know how to can, you can preserve whole strawberries as plain fruit, can them with sugar or make them into jelly or jam.
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