Strawberries are one of the quintessential delights of summer – sweet, tart, and fragrant, they make the perfect refreshingly sweet snack on a warm day. Strawberry season means plenty of fresh strawberries available in stores, ready to purchase in bulk for use in recipes for smoothies, cakes, cocktails, ice cream, and snacks.
They are best enjoyed immediately after picking when the berries are shiny red, juicy, and plump. Unfortunately, this isn’t an everyday activity for most of us, and so we need to find ways to make our purchased berries last until we are ready to eat them or use them for cooking.
In This Article
Why do strawberries go moldy or mushy so quickly?
Tiny amounts of microscopic fungal spores occur naturally on all berries, and they are harmless until the right environment triggers them to grow into mold. Moisture is the biggest concern, as a damp environment can cause mold to grow very quickly.
Spoiled strawberries are disappointing and also a waste of money, so taking the extra time to store the berries correctly is a good idea.
Whether you’re buying fresh strawberries from the supermarket or farmer’s market, or growing your own, you’ll want to store them properly so none of them go to waste. Keeping strawberries fresh can be a challenge as they do tend to go bad pretty quickly, but there are a few ways to extend their shelf life.
Different ways of storing strawberries
Most of us will probably pop our strawberries in the fridge in their original packaging, confident that we will finish them all before they start to go bad. However, there’s a good chance that within a few days, your uneaten berries might start to get mushy and unappetizing, or moldy.
After the disappointment of finding your strawberries spoiled, you’ll likely want a storage method that makes your berries last long enough for you to enjoy them fresh for days after you bought them.
What is the best way to store strawberries?
There are many ways to store strawberries, and some are more effective than others. Your choice of storage method also depends on when you want to eat your strawberries, and what you want to use them for.
How to store strawberries short-term
If you want to keep your strawberries fresh for a few days, or even up to two weeks, there are a few methods you can use. Most of these methods involve storing your berries in an airtight container lined with a paper towel, but opinions differ among strawberry enthusiasts as to whether you should wash your berries first before storage or leave them unwashed until right before you eat them.
With proper short-term storage, you’ll be able to preserve the color and texture of your berries, as well as the delicious sweet taste.
First, sort your fresh strawberries
Before you store your strawberries in a container, sort your strawberries. Briefly inspect each strawberry and decide which ones you want to eat immediately, which ones you want to cook with, and which ones you want to freeze (if you want to freeze some berries for smoothies or long-term storage).
You might want to store the nicest looking and biggest strawberries ready to use, while the smaller and less pretty ones can be set aside for storage in the freezer.
Slightly bruised or squashed strawberries are still edible, but their softer texture might lend them better to making jam or as an ingredient in baking.
Make sure that the softness isn’t from bacteria – mushy strawberries that look soggy and caved in are likely decaying and should be disposed of.
Can I leave them in their original supermarket packaging?
Yes, you can leave your berries in the original packaging you purchased them in. They will keep on your countertop for 2 days, or in the fridge for a bit longer.
Can I keep my strawberries in my strawberry picking carton?
Wooden or cardboard “berry baskets” that you buy strawberries in might have more ventilation, but the berries also might be packed in quite tightly, so they might get bruised more easily. Berries will stay fresh for around 2 days out of the fridge in a carton, or about a week in the fridge.
How to minimize moisture in berry cartons
The packaging you buy your strawberries in is usually designed for transporting berries and keeping them fresh in a particular environment (i.e., the chilled fruit and veg section of the supermarket).
Plastic fruit containers normally have a few small openings for airflow, but it can be difficult to keep moisture levels down to discourage mold growth.
Use a paper towel to absorb excess water
You can put a paper towel on top of the berries in the original container to help absorb any extra moisture and discourage mold growth.
Remove any damaged berries
If you want to store strawberries in their original carton, you’ll want to inspect each berry and remove any damaged or bruised berries that could start decaying.
Keep an eye on your strawberries
Check your strawberries every day for mold, and use them as soon as you can. The worst thing you can do is to forget about them!
Should strawberries be refrigerated? And how do you make strawberries last longer in the refrigerator?
If you plan on keeping your strawberries for more than 2 days, then yes, they should be refrigerated.
Strawberries kept outside the fridge last for about 2 days, depending on the weather and the packaging they are in. If you store them properly, they will stay pretty fresh for up to 2 weeks in the fridge.
Wash berries in a white vinegar bath, store them in a container with a paper towel
White vinegar kills bacteria and fungal spores, so if you soak your strawberries in vinegar water, the idea is that any pathogens will be killed by the vinegar.
Make a solution that is 1:6 parts white vinegar to water (e.g., 1/4 cup of vinegar mixed with 1 1/2 cups water), and soak the berries in a bowl of the vinegar water for a few minutes. White vinegar is the best choice as it is high in acidity, which is better at killing pathogens.
Rinse the strawberries in fresh, cold water in a colander and then let them air dry for 10 – 15 minutes, to get rid of the vinegar taste and smell.
Line an airtight container with paper towels and carefully place the dried berries inside, making sure that there’s some space between them for air circulation.
Rinse them and lay them out on paper towels
This storage method is best for keeping strawberries for up to 3 days, as washing strawberries increases the moisture dramatically, and encourages the growth of mold.
Rinse your strawberries gently under running water in a colander or strainer, and then leave your strawberries out to air dry.
When you store strawberries after washing them, be sure to pack them in containers lined with paper towels that will absorb a lot of this excess moisture.
Store strawberries in a glass container, unwashed
Store them in a glass jar (e.g., mason jar or Kilner jar) whole, and unwashed. This is highly rated by strawberry enthusiasts on the internet,
How to store your strawberries long-term
Freezing strawberries is the best way to preserve them for more than 2 weeks, and up to 8-12 months.
Core them and freeze them
Coring or hulling strawberries is the process of removing the leafy stems and core with a sharp knife. Alternatively, you can use a sturdy plastic or steel straw to core the strawberry by pushing it through the pointy end.
Wash your strawberries carefully, pat them dry, and core them. Cut up your berries however you like, or leave them whole.
Freeze your strawberries on a lined baking pan (wax paper or plastic wrap works) for 3 to 4 hours. This is called flash freezing (or open freezing), and it ensures that each berry is frozen individually, so you can use them as you need them without having to thaw the whole lot.
Once the strawberries are frozen, place them in a Ziploc bag for long-term storage.
Do strawberries last longer in a Ziploc bag?
An airtight freezer bag does about the same job as an airtight container, although the sturdy sides of a container will stop strawberries from getting crushed in the fridge.
Dehydrate them to make strawberry chips
If you have a dehydrator, you can use it to make sweet, crunchy, and delicious strawberry chips. Slice your fresh strawberries thinly, making the slices all the same size and thickness if you can, and lay them on the dehydrator tray.
Set the temperature of the dehydrator to 135 F, and dry the strawberry slices for 8-10 hours. You can dry them for an hour or two longer if you prefer them extra crispy.
After they have cooled, store your strawberry chips in an airtight container and enjoy them as a tasty snack!
Methods for strawberry storage that don’t work so well
According to internet strawberry storage expects, these methods aren’t great. Save yourself some time and money and give these methods a skip!
Hulling the berries and laying them cut-end down on a tray
Unfortunately, this method seems to be one of the least reliable for keeping the color and flavor of your fresh strawberries. Removing the stems, leaves a large surface area for bacteria to grow, and keeping them uncovered in the fridge risks cross-contamination.
Hot water bath
Washing each strawberry in hot water (around 145 F) before drying and storing them doesn’t seem to work so well.
Use up surplus strawberries in delicious recipes
A great way to avoid wasting strawberries is to cook with them!
Make strawberry smoothies and freeze them
Super simple strawberry smoothie recipe:
10 strawberries (5 frozen, 5 fresh for great taste and texture)
1 small ripe banana, sliced
100ml orange juice, chilled
Add all the ingredients to a blender and blitz until combined. Enjoy fresh, or freeze any extra smoothie to enjoy later.
Try out a few methods for storing strawberries and find out which ones work best for you!