Strawberries can last up to a week in the refrigerator if handled correctly, but it’s not always easy to tell how long a store-bought strawberry has already been left out. These tips can help you keep strawberries fresh for a couple days longer than you’re used to. If you still can’t use them all up, follow the instructions included for keeping them in your freezer.
Lengthening the Shelf Life of Strawberries
Look for signs of old strawberries before buying. Stains or mush on the container might be signs of rotting fruit, or at least wet fruit that is more susceptible to spoiling. Dark-colored or mushy strawberries are probably beginning to spoil, while strawberries with any signs of fuzzy mold are no longer usable.
If you’re picking your own strawberries, pick them after they have ripened and become bright red, while they are still firm.
Throw away moldy strawberries immediately. Mold can spread from one strawberry to another, quickly ruining the whole batch. While ideally you can find a batch of firm, bright red, mold-free strawberries in the store, one or two bad ones are often hiding among the good. Check the strawberries right after you buy them and toss out any that are fuzzy, or dark-colored and mushy strawberries that might get moldy soon.
This applies to moldy fruit stored near the strawberries as well.
Don’t wash strawberries until just before you use them. Strawberries will begin to soak up water and break down into soggy mush if left wet too long, which speeds up the spoiling process. Delay this by only washing your strawberries right before you eat them or use them in a recipe. If you have already washed a batch of strawberries, pat dry with a paper towel.
Washing strawberries before eating is still a good idea to remove potentially harmful chemicals or soil organisms.
Understand how a vinegar wash works. A mixture of white vinegar and water can remove potentially harmful bacteria and viruses from fruit more effectively than water alone, but this does not necessarily mean the strawberries will last longer. Fruit will break down even if the organisms that feed on it are killed, and too much liquid may actually break it down faster. If many of the strawberries in the batch had to be thrown out due to mold, it may be worth it to apply one part white vinegar and three parts water with a spray bottle. Otherwise, use vinegar washes only when washing the fruit, directly before using.
Rubbing the fruit with your fingers while washing will dislodge dirt and micro-organisms, and is more effective than only holding the fruit in running water.
Store in the refrigerator or a cold area. Strawberries will stay fresh in a cold environment, ideally within the range of 32–36ºF (0–2ºC). In order to prevent shriveling, keep them in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator, or in a plastic clamshell or partially open plastic bag.
If your strawberries are wet on their surface, first pat dry with paper towels and place them between new, dry paper towels to absorb moisture.
Freeze ripe, firm strawberries. Once a strawberry has started to decay or turn mushy, freezing won’t save it. The ripe, bright red strawberries will preserve best. Moldy or mushy strawberries should be discarded in the compost, garden, or trash.
Cut off the inedible green material. Most strawberries are sold with a green cap where the stem was attached, or with a small stem segment. Cut these off before freezing.
Decide how to prepare your strawberries before freezing. You can freeze strawberries whole, but if you intend to use them in recipes or as toppings you may wish to chop, slice, crush, or puree them first. Once frozen and thawed, they will be more difficult to cut, although pureeing always remains an option. Larger strawberries may also freeze and thaw more evenly if you cut them into smaller pieces first.
If you’re not sure how you want to prepare your strawberries, look at a few recipes first. Pureed strawberries work well in slushies or smoothies, while sliced ones go well as toppings on cakes or waffles. Whole strawberries can be dipped in chocolate.
Add sugar or sugar syrup (optional). Packing strawberries in sugar or sugar syrup will preserve more flavor and texture, but not everyone enjoys the extreme sweetness that can result. If you do decide to go this route, use 3/4 cup (180 mL) sugar for each 1 quart (1 L) berries, regardless of how they are prepared. Alternatively, create a heavy sugar syrup by mixing equal parts sugar and lukewarm water, then chill in the refrigerator and use it to cover the berries completely.
While it may make more sense to add sugar or syrup after packing the strawberries, decide whether to use it or not before you begin packing, so you know whether to leave additional space in the containers.
Consider pectin syrup instead (optional). This is a good option if you prefer an unsweetened strawberry, but you want to preserve the flavor and texture better than a “dry pack” with no additional ingredients would. This requires purchasing powdered pectin, and boiling it in water. Different brands may require different amounts of water per packet. Let the pectin syrup cool before covering the strawberries.
Note that this may not preserve it as well as the sugar or sugar syrup.
Place the strawberries in freezer-safe containers. Thick, rigid glass and plastic containers typically work best, but make sure they are freezer-safe before using. Freezer-safe plastic zip lock bags are another option. Pack the strawberries loosely to prevent them forming one large mass. It’s generally a good idea to leave 1/2 to 1 inch (1.25–2 cm) of space at the top of the container to allow for expansion while freezing.
If the strawberries are packed “dry,” without any sugar or syrups, you may wish to spread them loosely on a tray and freeze them for a few hours on the tray. Then transfer to a more compact container as described. This makes it easier to remove individual strawberries instead of a large, icy lump.
Partially thaw strawberries before using. Remove the strawberries and let thaw in the refrigerator for several hours before using. If you wish to speed up this process, put the strawberries under cold running water. Heating in a microwave or by another method may cause the strawberries to become unpleasantly mushy. Eat while there are still a few ice crystals on the surface, as the strawberries may become mushy when fully thawed. The exact length of time this process takes depends on the temperature and the size of your strawberries. A large mass of strawberries frozen together may need to be left overnight or even longer.
Strawberries that are mushy, but not fuzzy or moldy, can be used in baking, or pureed and used in salad dressing.
Too much contact with zinc or other metals may cause fruit to break down sooner. This is mostly a concern in large-scale commercial operations, not home kitchens.
How to Store Strawberries
How to Freeze Strawberries
How to Select and Store Cherries
How to Prepare and Use Strawberries
Sources and Citations
Cite error: tags exist, but no tag was found