How do I prevent fresh strawberries from going bad so quickly?
March 4, 2019 9:06 AM   Subscribe

My brain knows that fresh strawberries are meant to be eaten only during the three glorious weeks of summer when they’re in season around these parts. My stomach says they should be eaten year round and in myriad ways. Regardless of the season, how do I make the fresh strawberries I buy - whether from an organic farm stand or a supermarket - last longer?

I know they're a fragile fruit, but they always seem start getting mushy or grow fungus within the first day. Putting them in the fridge vs. letting them sit out doesn’t make much difference. Some say they should be washed in a vinegar/water solution immediately, but others say they shouldn’t get wet until they're rinsed just before eating. And lining the punnet or clamshell with paper towel seems like it would just hold unwanted moisture even closer to the berries. So what’s the secret, if there is one?
posted by theory to Food & Drink (16 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Freshworks Produce Saver

Don't wash the fruit before hand, don't store bruised or damaged fruit or wet fruit, the sugars & moisture encourage mold growth. I can't get them to last indefinitely but can get a week+ out of them in one of those containers if I'm careful & check for bruising etc before hand. They also freeze well, but go mushy so if you're using in smoothies or somewhere texture isn't a concern that might be an option for you too.

I also found when my fruit was growing mold faster than normal, turned out my fridge was dying & not running as cold as it should.
posted by wwax at 9:18 AM on March 4, 2019 [3 favorites]

More air circulation seems to work better. I put them in a vented plastic container like this Prepworks one.

Even though the clamshell you buy them in is vented, the berries are all piled up. The container I use is bigger and they're usually not much more than one layer deep (plus there are air holes on the bottom, too. I usually rinse strawberries right away (but not blackberries or raspberries), remove any that already have a bad spot, and then refrigerate.

They still don't last forever, but I get 4-5 days out of them.
posted by Kriesa at 9:20 AM on March 4, 2019

Yep, Produce Saver. I haven't found it enormously effective for most things, but I see an obvious difference with berries specifically.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:22 AM on March 4, 2019 [2 favorites]

My grapes were getting moldy fast, even in the freshworks container. The problem was that I was washing them when I got them and putting them in that container. Washing them as needed made a big difference. And it turns out that the bags they came in were much better designed for keeping them fresh. Not sure if that's true for strawberries.

For the produce I do store in Freshworks containers, I always add a paper towel to the top and change it out every day (letting the old one dry and reusing it to avoid waste). It absorbs moisture that's already there anyway - so I don't think it makes things more likely to get moldy. The whole paper towel is always very damp when I open the container.
posted by FencingGal at 9:24 AM on March 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

I've used a vinegar/water bath to kill any mold spores. Dry well.
posted by obliquity of the ecliptic at 9:41 AM on March 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

First thing: take them home, remove them all from the container, and discard or eat any of them that are softer or are overripe, or moldy.

Place a paper towel, napkin, or reusable cloth in the bottom (and up the sides if there's room) of the container.

Place the berries back in, carefully. If there will be more than 2 or 3 strawberries on top of one another, then add another paper towel in the middle.

The paper towel absorbs the moisture, and helps regulate the moisture level for the strawberries.

For me, the biggest key is sorting them when you first get them. Get rid of the ones that will cause trouble. The firmer berries will still be good in 4 days.
posted by hydra77 at 9:57 AM on March 4, 2019 [5 favorites]

Master Preserver here!

Fill a bowl with cold water and add 2 tablespoons of vinegar or lemon juice. Gently pour berries in. Let them sit for like a minute. Gently strain them and let them dry on a paper towel. This kills the mold spores that cause them to go bad. Because mold is in the air, it's not a forever solution. Store them DRY in a closed container. Use them in a week or freeze them.
posted by Bistyfrass at 10:39 AM on March 4, 2019 [2 favorites]

Nthing hydra's method and adding that I spritz mine with a bit of Trader Joe's citrus vodka to kill mold and store in a glass container as it gets colder than plastic and does not leech plastic into my edibles.
posted by effluvia at 10:52 AM on March 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

Harold McGee suggests thermotherapy:
I bought pints of various berries, divided each batch into two samples, and heated one by immersing and swishing its plastic basket in a pot of hot water. I emptied the heated sample onto towels to cool down and dry. Then I repacked it, and encouraged both baskets to spoil by wrapping them airtight and letting them sweat on the kitchen counter. After 24 hours I counted the moldy berries in each basket.

The strawberries fared best when I heated them at 125 degrees for 30 seconds. In two samples from different sources, this treatment gave a total of 1 moldy berry out of 30, where the untreated baskets had 14. I also treated some bruised berries, including one with a moldy tip. After 24 hours none were moldy. The tip mold not only hadn’t spread, it had disappeared.
posted by Lexica at 11:31 AM on March 4, 2019 [2 favorites]

I use a Bluapple in the crisper drawer, dont pre-wash, remove visible moldy berries daily, and use the clamshell they come in. I'll still have most berries intact 10 days later.
posted by ananci at 11:45 AM on March 4, 2019

I spray mine with a fruit cleaning spray, let sit for a couple of minutes, rinse in very cold water, then set them out on a dish towel to dry. I cull out any that are soft, discolored or moldy as I work. Let the berries sit on the towel until thoroughly dry (you can gently pat the top side of them with another towel to hasten this) and then store in the original container (or container of your choice.) They will last for several days. I examine them each time I go to use them, and make sure to take out any that look peaked.

I use a similar method with grapes, but those get stored in a bowl on the coffee table and will last for days.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 12:18 PM on March 4, 2019

Some beer brewing friends swear by spraying their fruit with diluted StarSan, which is a no-rinse sanitizer (yes, you sanitize your bottles, and then put the beer right on top of it) often used by brewers for equipment. I haven't tried it yet
posted by ArgentCorvid at 12:31 PM on March 4, 2019

This probably doesn't help but we get strawberries from our farm share twice a year and they always let us know the conditions under which they are picked - if it rained the night before, they are all plump and we know we have to eat them very quickly.

All of which is to say, you may be able to extend the life of your strawberries, but some will be out of your control.
posted by warriorqueen at 12:41 PM on March 4, 2019

I keep mine in an airtight glass jar and they last a good week or so. If I see one berry going bad I'll chuck it out so it doesn't corrupt the others.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 6:37 PM on March 4, 2019

I love Clearly Fresh Bags and they make a huge difference. You can recycle them if you cut the little breathable square out.
posted by trillian at 6:41 PM on March 4, 2019

This is slightly tangential, but discovering freezer jam was a life-changing experience. It's suuuuuuper easy*, and then you get that June Strawberry Flavor all year round.

In my area, it's pretty easy to find pectin powder specifically formulated for freezer jam, and then it's literally stir that together with crushed fruit and sugar and pour into jars.
posted by epersonae at 1:45 PM on March 5, 2019

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