What’s one of the most delicious gifts of the spring and summer?
The beautiful abundance of fresh berries!
I adore eating handfuls of cold blueberries on a hot summer day, and love enjoying every morsel of delicate raspberries bursting with juice that I can get my hands on.
However, these seasonal treats are so fragile, and your money can be easily wasted when they lose their freshness.
If you leave these gorgeous gems in the refrigerator in an open container, and perhaps forget about them for a few days (the classic result of a busy schedule), they lose their freshness very quickly.
All of a sudden, that bright and vibrant pint of strawberries you were so excited to eat is covered in mold. Everywhere.
You must know the heartbreak, at some point in your life, of throwing away what once was the most perfect bounty of berries.
Don’t let this happen to you again. If you’re on a mission to cut down on food waste and preserve your favorite seasonal food items, you’ll want to save this article!
We’ll share our best tips for storing these precious fruits so you’ll be able to enjoy them for as long as possible, even during the cold winter months.
What You’ll Learn
Don’t Wash Until You’re Ready to Eat
This is the BIGGEST rule of the berry business: do not wash your fruit until you plan to eat it!
I know it can be tempting to rinse produce as soon as you get home, but hold off on rinsing the berries.
Because seasonal berries tend to get moldy very easily, the best way to avoid impending mold growth is to keep them as dry as possible.
Another pro tip is to thoroughly inspect the fruit prior to storage.
More often than not, there will be a soft or moldy raspberry or strawberry at the bottom of the container that you may have missed when inspecting them at the store or farmers market.
No one is perfect.
Take all of the fruit out of the original grocery store container and place it on a clean plate or cutting board.
Look for any pieces that exhibit signs of mold, or that are smashed or mushy. Remove and dispose of them immediately, as mold tends to spread quickly.
For larger fruit like strawberries that have some mold growth in just a small section, you can wash the fruit and cut off any soft or moldy sections, and eat what remains right away.
Wait to Cut, Slice, or Dice
Speaking of cutting, I 100% recommend waiting to cut and prep larger fruit until you are ready to consume it.
For refrigerator storage, the fruit will keep best when they are completely whole, with no exposed sliced areas.
This is particularly important to remember with strawberries! Do not trim the tops off to discard the leaves before storage if you are not planning to eat them immediately.
Cutting delicate fruit like berries and exposing these areas to the air promotes fast spoilage during storage.
Don’t show off your knife skills until you’re absolutely ready for snack time!
Transfer to a Bigger Container
Using a larger container is best if you are planning to store them in the refrigerator for a few days. This helps to maintain their freshness for a longer period of time.
After you remove any individual pieces that are moldy or starting to show signs of decay, you can transfer the rest to a larger container for storage.
Line a large lidded plastic or glass container with a layer of paper towels, and gently place all of the fruit inside.
Be sure to choose a container that is an appropriate size for the amount of berries you are storing.
The berries should have some breathing room. They can touch, but they shouldn’t be forcefully pressed against each other in the container, or piled too high on top of each other. Close, cramped storage is another major catalyst for faster spoilage.
Fruits with a thicker skin, like blueberries, can be pushed together a little closer, since the skin acts as a mild buffer. However, with more fragile selections like raspberries and blackberries, you definitely want to store them with a gentle touch, and plenty of space.
Once you have transferred them to the container, place the lid on top and store them in the refrigerator.
Out of containers at home? While it’s not the best option, you can use the same container you bought them in for storage in a pinch, with a few minor adjustments.
If the berries were sold in a plastic clamshell, rinse the container out, dry it completely, and add a paper towel to the bottom to absorb any excess moisture.
If they were sold in cardboard baskets, do not rinse the containers, as the cardboard will become soggy. Simply remove the berries, add a paper towel to the bottom of each basket, and gently place the berries back inside.
If there is a moisture-absorbing pad already in the bottom of the grocery store container, toss it! Start fresh with clean, dry paper towels.
Where to Store Them in the Fridge
Since we’ve already optimized the storage vessel, you do not have to store your berries in the produce drawer.
You certainly can keep them in the drawers to save room for other refrigerated items on the shelves, but it is not necessary.
If you want to save drawer space for other fruits and vegetables, you can choose any of the shelves in your refrigerator to store your containers of berries.
The one general rule I have is to avoid storing them too close to the location of the freezer. Due to how delicate the fruits are, they may partially freeze if they are close to the freezer.
The back of the refrigerator is also colder than the front, so take that into consideration when you’re storing them as well!
If you currently have issues with refrigerated items partially freezing depending on their location, be mindful of those problem areas when storing your fragile fruits.
Utilize Your Freezer
Berries are at the peak of their flavor and nutrition when they’re in season during the spring and summer. And because you can often find them at a great price during these months, it’s a smart shopping strategy to stock up on them when you can!
Learning how to store them in the freezer is the best way to get the most out of your sweet seasonal produce if you want it to last. That way, you can make your favorite berry recipes all winter long for a significantly smaller cost than what you would pay for frozen berries at the store.
Here’s the prep process:
After inspecting the fruit at home, wash all the fruit with cold water. Remove any stems and leaves, and cut them to your preferred size.
Place the pieces on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, spacing them out so none of the pieces are touching. Use multiple sheet pans or work in batches if you need to.
This step is crucial for freezer storage! If you freeze the berries together, they will stick, making it nearly impossible to break them apart.
Freeze the baking sheet uncovered for 1 hour, or until the pieces are completely frozen. Transfer them to a large airtight storage bag or container, and store them in the freezer until ready for use.
You can use the berries frozen for recipes, or you can thaw them by transferring them to your refrigerator for a couple of hours.
You will always find a few bags in my freezer, as I love to stock up on them when they’re in season at the farmers market, and then freeze them to enjoy in smoothies throughout the year. I’ve been using them year-round in our mixed berry smoothie recipe!
The Vinegar Solution Myth
If you’re a fan of fun food hacks, there are multiple techniques available that attempt to both clean and extend the shelf life of your berries, like diluted vinegar or baking soda solutions.
If you are interested in giving a vinegar mixture a try, you can use the ratio of 1 part vinegar to 3 parts cool water. White vinegar is the best option when it comes to cleaning produce.
Cleaning this way entails filling a large bowl with the mixture and placing your fruit in the bowl. Mix the berries around a little bit and leave them to soak for 1 to 2 minutes, then dump out the water. Rinse them gently in a colander.
Once cleaned, lay them out to air dry on a clean kitchen towel or paper towels for about 30 minutes, and then store them as described above. You don’t want to pat them dry if you can avoid it, as this can damage the fruit.
Still disappointed in the results? That’s understandable. These solutions will not guarantee extended freshness, and they tend to leave a slightly unpleasant aftertaste of either vinegar or baking soda behind.
I’m of the opinion that these hacks are not worth the effort, or the often unsatisfactory results. Seasonal berries are fragile and finicky, with gorgeous flavors that are meant to be enjoyed as soon as possible!
All good things must come to an end, as the saying goes. Especially for fresh summer berries.
But all hope is not lost, as another saying goes! If you are determined to get the most out of your fresh berries over a long period, use the ultimate storage solution described above: the freezer.
Use Up All Those Berries
There are so many incredible options for using these brightly hued, fresh seasonal fruits in your baking and cooking. Here are a few of my favorites:
- Chia Pudding
- Fruit Compote
- Grain Dishes
- Hot Breakfast Cereal and Oatmeal
- Ice Cream Sundaes
- Iced Tea
- Jams and Jellies
- Quick Breads
The recipe options really are endless! They are perfect in both sweet and savory dishes, though who wouldn’t be just as happy munching on a bowl of them completely and totally on their own as well?
As long as you store these delicate fruits with the right care, you are sure to get the most out of them throughout the entire year.
They will last longer, and will taste just as good as when you first purchased them.
Do you have any of your own techniques for cleaning and storing to recommend? What are your favorite ways to use up this type of fresh fruit? Leave a comment below – I’d love to hear some fresh advice!
If you need a push in the right direction on how to use fresh berries at home, take a look at some of the easiest recipes we have on Foodal to get started:
© Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published by Sarah Hagstrom on May 11, 2016. Last updated on July 30, 2021. Uncredited photos: Shutterstock.
About Nikki Cervone
Nikki Cervone is an ACS Certified Cheese Professional and cheesemonger living in Pittsburgh. Nikki holds an AAS in baking/pastry from Westmoreland County Community College, a BA in Communications from Duquesne University, and an MLA in Gastronomy from Boston University. When she's not nibbling on her favorite cheeses or testing a batch of cupcakes, Nikki enjoys a healthy dose of yoga, wine, hiking, singing in the shower, and chocolate. Lots of chocolate.
22 thoughts on “How to Get the Most out of Fresh Berries”
This actually makes a lot of sense. My family buys a lot of strawberries, especially when they are in season, and we keep them in the same container, wash them immediately, and just throw them in the fridge.
Almost always, if we don’t finish them the same day we bought them, then they go and spoil surprisingly fast. I’m definitely going to try a few of the tricks here, like moving them to a larger container, next time I grab a few.
Moving them to a larger container makes such a big difference. Good luck:)
Where I grew up, we had an abundance of Strawberries and Blueberries during the summer. As you said, the big thing is just moisture.. if they are damp, they are going to mold very fast. For me now, I have just learned which fruits and vegetables need to be bough in smaller amounts, more frequently. Strawberries and other berries in particular, just don´t buy so much and expect to keep them. Buy what you are going to use and eat that day and the next day. Freezing them is not an option for me, they just lose too much identity.
That is a great tip and so true, only buy what you’ll be able to use! Thank you for sharing.
I’ve ALWAYS washed my berries before even putting them in the fridge! This explains why they always go bad so quickly… I’m thinking about trying my hand at growing some this year, my local farmer’s market is selling strawberry plants and I’m absolutely dying to get one. My only worry was that they’d go bad before I could eat them, but freezing them is an awesome idea! Do you know about how long strawberries last frozen?
I grew up picking different kind of fruits, including berries. My uncle grew them and of course, we would eat a lot of them while picking – no washing involved there. Although I do agree that washing them will make them far more fragile and shriveled than they already are. Now I usually just buy (straw)berries from the local store even though they just aren’t the same.
Thank you for the information. Maybe I’ll get to eat more of my berries now. I hate it when I have to toss them.
Thank you for these great ideas! I try to have to have berries every day but I usually go the simple route and a make a morning smoothie or juice with them. I’m excited to try these new ideas and this is perfect timing because I am just starting to see some really beautiful ones at my local farmers markets!
Strawberries are my personal favorite. I have actually ended up having to throw away quite a few thanks to mold and general squishiness :-P. Next season I’m going to give these storage tips a shot. Unfortunately none of the other berries on your list are available in fresh form in my part of the world. Already frozen is my only option. While we do have a couple of other berries native to the region, I’m unaware of their English names.
Never knew that you could rinse berries in vinegar and water solution. Thanks for the great tip!
I never knew that about water and vinegar! I was even thinking about one of those ‘active oxygen’ fridges to put my berries in but I guess I don’t have to now 🙂
This post is perfect for summer, many thanks for this 🙂 hope other people find this helpful too 🙂
I have never heard that tip about rinsing strawberries in vinegar water, my toddler LOVES strawberries, but if I buy too many when they are on sale I always end up losing a lot before he can eat them all. This will really help me take advantage of stocking up when the price is right! I’ve also always cored the berries out of convenience, but will be leaving the tops on and storing with a fresh paper towel. Thank you!
Definitely try freezing them also. It really works. I’m trying to change my habits to stock up on produce when it goes on sale and immediately freeze some of it to use later when that same produce doubles in price.
The washing with vinegar really works. But I try to do it when I get home with the produce. I thought that helped get rid of the spores that would cause it to mold. You’re saying even if I’m washing with vinegar not to do it until I’m ready to use them?
I couldn’t possibily pick my favorite berry, I love them all! Seriously, I think I could eat them every day, and never get tired of them! I’ve always had troubles storing them though, they always go bad very fast and now I know why. I used to wash them right away and I stored them in the fridge in a open container. Now, thanks to your post, I know better, and I won’t make the same mistake again. Thank you so much for the precious tips, I’m learning a lot of new things from this blog. For example, I had no idea that washing them with water and white vinegar could prolong their shelf life for 5 days. It”s great, I won’t have to throw out my beloved fruits anymore.
Berries are one of my favorite fruits, you can use them at anything. Tea, smoothies, dessert, you name it, they taste amazing! Wish I read this sooner, a lot of my berries went bad because I didn’t take care of them properly.
I had no idea that you can actually make berries last longer using that method, it’s amazing! I will use it from now. 🙂 I think that my favorite thing to do with berries are freezing them, it’s more refreshing for me to eat them while they’re frozed.
I think that we need to get the most out of any fruits actually, they are really healthy and delicious, and it’s also a way to get healthier habits.
Thanks for sharing!
Well I never knew about the water and vinegar solution for keeping them fresh, and I have to say that it is perfect for me and is what I have been looking for for some times now. I always buy the berries this time of year and then they go bad pretty quick, which of course means wasted opportunity. This will certainly help, though, so thank you for that.
I just went strawberry picking with my family on July 1. I went to make a smoothie with some berries I had in the fridge this morning and I was so impressed that they were still fresh and juicy. Not one went moldy. Had I kept the ones I bought from the store in the fridge that long I would have had to toss them. I froze about a 3 large freezer bags full and used the baking tray technique. It was so easy to get them out to put into a smoothie. I love using berries at this time of year. The taste is incredible.
Ohhhhhh~~~ Lucky you~
It’s been a long time since I went strawberry picking -the last time was when I was still in elementary :P. We actually went to the strawberry farm when I was in high school, too bad I got sick so we didn’t get to pick strawberries >o<
Oh, these are good tips. I’m just wondering though, won’t washing them in vinegar solution leave them with a bit of that “vinegar taste”?
Thanks for the tips though -lol, now I know what that pad is for (I really didn’t know XD). On the other hand, I didn’t know that washing the berries would make them more prone to mold (though it’s really logical when I think about it), good thing I’m too lazy to wash the berries before putting them into the refrigerator 😛
These are some of my favorites. They are tasty and so healthy. These tips will certainly come in handy. I’ll be freezing some of these goodies whenever they are in season to save for later. I’m always sad when my favorites are no longer in season. Instead of buying the already frozen variety from the grocery store during those times, I’ll simply pop some of these out of the freezer.
I had no idea you shouldn’t wash right away. I always do that. Thanks for the info.