Who doesn’t love strawberries? They’re bright, vibrant, and delicious. They’re also easy to find. You can grow them in your garden, buy them at a farmer’s market, head to your grocery store, and even order them online. Strawberries also make their way into many recipes, including keto strawberry smoothies and even strawberry-chili vinegar.
But, like most fresh fruit, strawberries don’t last all that long. You might get a week out of them, if you’re careful, or just a few days if you’re not. That’s why today we’re looking at how to keep strawberries fresh.
Doing so just makes sense, right? If you’re going to all the effort of buying or growing strawberries, you want them to last long enough to actually be useful.
Ways Of Storing Your Fresh Strawberries
Keep Them In The Original Container
This is the easiest approach. You simply keep the strawberries in the container they came in. Remove any mushy ones first, then throw the container in the fridge.
The approach works because strawberries already come in containers designed to keep them fresh. Most even have holes in the side to help with air flow.
Storing strawberries like this works well enough if you just want to keep them for a few days. But, the limitations start to show after that point. Some of the strawberries in your container may last a full week, but many others won’t.
Rinse and Store On A Paper Towel
Another popular approach is to rinse the strawberries, then store them in a container that’s lined with a paper towel.
This is certainly an appealing way, as the strawberries are already washed and can be eaten at a moment’s notice. The effort is pretty minimal too.
There are a few variations to the technique. For example, some people leave the container open, while others place a lid on top. You can also use a hot water bath for your strawberries rather than rinsing them.
Keeping the strawberries in the crisper drawer, rather than the main section of the fridge could help as well. This drawer often contains vents that can be opened to allow any excess moisture to escape.
Don’t pile the strawberries on top of each other though. Doing so slightly crushes the ones on the bottom, which decreases how long they last.
This approach works fairly well, but it has its limitations. Some of your berries may last a full week, but many more will get mushy or even moldy before that point.
Skip The Rinsing
Despite being popular, the previous approach isn’t the best way to store your strawberries.
Part of the problem is the rinsing. Doing so adds moisture, which simply encourages mold. It’s much better to leave the berries as-is, then wash them before you eat them. Keeping the stems on your strawberries helps as well.
Basically, the fewer things you’re doing to your strawberries, the better.
Rather than rinsing the strawberries, try transferring the strawberries straight from the container they came in to one lined with a paper towel.
Store Them In An Airtight Jar
Another trick involves ditching the paper towel entirely. Instead, you place the strawberries straight into an airtight jar (and screw the lid on tightly). The jar can then be placed in the fridge.
Here too, it’s best to avoid rinsing your berries. This way they stay dry and should last longer.
The approach might work even better if you find a large flat airtight container, so that the berries can be in a single layer and don’t crush each other.
Storing strawberries like this is a decent approach. But, it’s pretty impractical. The strawberries might not fit in a single jar and can be difficult to get out.
Soak In Vinegar Then Dry
This method is interesting. You rinse your strawberries in a solution of vinegar and water (a ratio of one part vinegar to three parts water is a good starting point). Some authors suggest leaving the berries like this, while others suggest rinsing them with clean water after.
Then, crucially, you need to dry the berries. Excess water dramatically increases the rate of deterioration.
Paper towels are a fantastic tool here, as they absorb excess water. You could even gently dry the strawberries in a salad spinner that’s lined with paper towels. Keeping them in a paper towel lined container is helpful too.
This is often promoted as the most powerful solution. However, not everyone has the same experience. This may come down to the specifics of how you’re doing things or even the berries themselves.
FreshPaper has developed sheets that are meant to help with fruit and vegetable storage. They’re fairly inexpensive, compostable, and may inhibit bacterial growth.
This paper could easily help your strawberries last longer, especially if you combine it with one of the other approaches on this list.
So, perhaps, you place a single layer of unrinsed strawberries in an airtight container, with FreshPaper at the bottom. Strawberries stored that way might last a week in the fridge without losing too much quality.
What Works Best?
First of all, if you want to just store your strawberries for a few days, then it’s fine to keep them in their original container in the fridge. Just be sure to pick out any mushy ones first.
If you want longer than this, you’ll need to look to other approaches.
Rinsing the berries in a vinegar solution is often touted as the best way to keep strawberries. However, results are inconsistent.
The problem is that you’re introducing a lot of extra moisture, which can easily promote mold. It’s also a labor intensive way to store your strawberries. Do you want to go to all that effort when there’s no guarantee that your strawberries will even last any longer?
Storing unwashed strawberries on a paper towel in an airtight container (perhaps with FreshPaper) is much simpler and will often be just as effective.
Other Important Approaches
Buy Good Strawberries
Keeping strawberries fresh isn’t just about how you store them. The specific berries you choose matter as well.
First of all, look for red strawberries, one that are firm and have a uniform color. The berries shouldn’t have any green or off-color splotches on them (and certainly shouldn’t have any mold).
Think about where the strawberries come from too.
Ones that have traveled a long way to get to you probably won’t last as long as those grown locally. Strawberries from a farmer’s market are a much better choice or even ones you have grown yourself.
Weed Out The Bad Ones
Unless you’re selecting strawberries individually, there will probably be some inferior ones in the bunch. These are most likely to be mushy or discolored, but you might even see some mold.
Go through the strawberries carefully when you first get them home and remove any that are questionable. If they’re only a little mushy, they may still be edible, but you still don’t want them in with the rest of your berries. Doing this is critical, as mold will quickly spread between fruits.
You should be doing this regularly too. This might include checking the berries every day or two and removing any that are mushy or moldy.
Getting rid of the bad strawberries is much easier if you’ve stored them in a single layer.
Keep The Stem On
Removing the stem from strawberries exposes more flesh to the elements and makes them deteriorate faster. It’s much better to keep the berries as-is until it’s time to use them.
When Have They Gone Bad?
Even if you follow the guidelines above, some of your strawberries may go bad. There are a few tell-tale signs to watch out for, including:
Keep an eye out for bruised and soft strawberries as well.
This change in texture means that they’re on their way out. It’s best to store such strawberries separately (or get rid of them), so they don’t get moldy and contaminate the rest of your berries.
Strawberries start to lose some of their flavor at this point too. They’re still useable, but you probably don’t want to pop the whole strawberry in your mouth.
How Do You Use Mushy Strawberries?
A loss of firmness is one of the first signs that strawberries are starting to turn. Strawberries start to lose some of their flavor at this point, but you can still use them.
Plus, the mushiness isn’t typically uniform. Often only part of the strawberry will be affected. Why throw out the whole berry when some of it can still be saved?
Pare Away The Worst Parts
First, take a knife to the strawberry and remove any mushy parts.
Sometimes you’ll end up cutting most of the strawberry away. But, many times, you’ll only need to remove a little bit.
You’ll need to make some judgment calls here about what is too mushy and what isn’t. While the strawberry should still be edible regardless, the softer the flesh is, the less appealing the flavor.
Once you’ve worked with a few recipes and batches of strawberries, it should be easy to decide which parts to keep and which to remove.
Choose A Suitable Recipe
The next step is choosing an appropriate recipe. You want recipes where the structure and firmness of your strawberries doesn’t matter too much.
Any type of jam or sauce will work well. These end up with much the same texture, regardless of the strawberries you use. Pies and cobblers are another option. The cooking softens your strawberries, so mushy strawberries won’t seem out of place at all.
You can think outside of the box too. For example, homemade strawberry ice cream is a delicious approach. In fact, any recipe that involves pureeing or simmering cut strawberries will work well with mushy strawberries.
What About Freezing Strawberries?
Regardless of the approach you take, you’re only going to get a week or so from your fresh strawberries. And, you’ll probably lose a few strawberries along the way.
If you need strawberries to last longer – freezing is the answer.
The process is pretty easy. You start off by washing the strawberries and drying them well. You’ll then need to remove the leaves and stems.
After this, they can be laid out on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and placed in the freezer. Make sure they’re not touching each other, otherwise they’ll stick together. Once the strawberries are frozen, you can store them in resealable plastic bags.
It’s best to freeze strawberries when you first get them. This way they’re at peak quality and provide the best flavor.
However, you can still fresh mushy strawberries if you need to. These berries will still work well if you’re making smoothies, fruit pies, or cobblers.
Just remember that thawed berries will never have the same texture as fresh ones. The freezing process breaks the cell walls of the strawberries – a process that can’t be reversed. So, even if you’re extremely careful, your thawed strawberries will always be a little mushy.
Storing fresh strawberries is a surprisingly complicated process. We’ve highlighted six main approaches, each of which can be tweaked in a variety of ways.
There’s no hard and fast rule about which approach is best. Some people see success by doing a vinegar rinse first, while others store unrinsed berries in mason jars. Placing berries in an airtight container with a paper towel works too, especially if the berries are unwashed.
Because the results vary so much, you may need to experiment for yourself. Why not try a few different approaches and see which one feels right for you?