Everything You Need to Know About Washing and Storing Berries So They Stay Fresh Longer
Whether you're buying a pint at the grocery store, loading up at a local farmers' market, or growing your own in the backyard, these tips will keep your favorite berries, whether they are blackberries, blueberries, gooseberries, raspberries, or strawberries, fresh as long as possible.
How to Choose Berries
Before placing a container in your shopping cart, inspect what's on the inside. Check for mold, super soft spots, and discoloration on the berries. Blueberries that have shriveled a bit and lack firmness are likely to go bad within a day or two of purchase. Mushy, dark red spots on strawberries and raspberries are also a sign that they're on their way out. To ensure peak freshness, shop for seasonal produce at the farmers' market; farmers usually pick produce for sale the morning of, or the day before the market, which means you're getting truly farm fresh produce with a longer shelf life.
How to Store Berries
If you're planning to eat or use the berries within a day of purchasing, it's fine to leave them covered on a countertop. Otherwise, storing berries in the refrigerator is the best way to prevent them from going bad quickly. Pro tip: Store berries at the front of your refrigerator so that you don't forget they're there.
How to Wash Berries
Most berries should not be washed until they are being used. Excess water can cause premature spoilage for delicate, antioxidant-rich fruits like blueberries and raspberries, even gooseberries.
Holding a package of berries under running water is not the correct approach: The pressure of the water can cause berries to squish, particularly if they're packed on top of each other in a plastic container. Plus, excess water droplets will remain in the package after washing and can cause berries to get soggy. Instead, fill a large bowl with cold water, then gently place the berries in a colander and dip it in the water bath. The result is an even wash that protects the berries. Afterwards, transfer the berries to a paper towel-lined, airtight container and place in the refrigerator; choose a larger container so the berries can lay flat in a single layer.
How to Clean Strawberries
As strawberries are regularly featured on the Environmental Working Group's "Dirty Dozen" of the produce items most likely to have pesticide contamination (this year they top the list), it's best to buy organic and one that home cooks want to be extra careful with cleaning.
Washing berries in water is a good way to get off obvious dirt and grime and an efficient way to wash strawberries. For an even deeper clean, dip them in a 3:1 mixture of water and distilled white vinegar. This vinegar rinse helps to prevent mold from spoiling strawberries and can extend their shelf life. It also works for other berries. Avoid soaking berries in the vinegar wash as prolonged exposure may cause them to absorb the vinegar flavor. After washing, dry the berries gently but thoroughly on a paper or cloth towel.
How Long Will Berries Last?
Stored carefully in the refrigerator, blueberries and strawberries will last five to seven days. More delicate berries like blackberries, raspberries, and gooseberries last three to five days.
Can You Freeze Berries?
Frozen berries are great to have on hand for smoothies and juices, and for baking. After washing, gently pat the berries dry with a paper towel until all excess water has been absorbed. Transfer the berries to a parchment-lined baking sheet, arranging them carefully in a single layer, not touching each other, and freeze until firm, this step prevents them from clumping together in a frozen lump. Once frozen, transfer to a freezer bag and freeze for up to six months.