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 a full-time cheesemonger and specialty foods buyer 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.