We’ve all done it – spring starts rolling in with sunshine and warmer weather and we decide this is the year we’ll finally get that summer body we’ve always wanted. Which of course means stocking up on tons of fresh produce to replace the junk food we usually eat. For most of us, this is where our love of strawberries comes in handy. Prided as one of the healthiest fruits you can eat, strawberries are chock full of vitamin C, fiber, potassium, magnesium, and antioxidants. In addition to improving eyesight, lowering blood pressure, and boosting the immune system, strawberries are darn delicious and are a great intersection of healthy and yummy.
But far too often we make the fatal mistake of buying more than we can eat before it goes bad. And before we know it those 5 cartons of delicious strawberries we splurged on for creative salads and morning smoothies become a moldy goo destined for the trash.
Luckily, there are a ton of tricks on how to make our strawberries last longer so we can enjoy that fruit (and that summer body to boot!) and avoid sending more food to the landfill.
First and foremost, strawberries should be refrigerated. Unlike many other fruits, strawberries will not continue to ripen after being picked. So once they leave the bush, they’re already starting on the path to decay, meaning their shelf-life for us is much shorter than fruits that might continue to ripen on our kitchen counter for a few days after purchase. The cold temperatures in the refrigerator exist to slow down the growth of bacteria, mold, and decay, so it’s the perfect place to store fruits like strawberries that are on the fast track to decay once picked. But keeping them in the fridge isn’t the only way to extend their freshness. Here are some of the best tricks to make your strawberries last longer in the fridge.
Make sure that you’re not harboring any moldy or decaying strawberries in your bunch of fresh and healthy berries. Inspect your strawberries, looking for the key signs of decay or mold such as mushy texture, discoloration, bruises, and white or green fuzzy mold spots. If you find any strawberries in your bunch with these issues, toss them immediately so that it doesn’t spread to your fresh, healthy berries.
Why it works: Mold grows from tiny spores that float around in the air. When you have food that’s decaying, these spores are more abundant and are more likely to spread through the air to other foods nearby, quickly causing a widespread a mold problem. To avoid one rotten berry from spoiling the whole bunch, make sure you inspect your strawberries after purchase and throw out any strawberries that look like they might be experiencing any signs of decay.
In a large bowl, mix 1/2 cup of white vinegar and 2 1/2 cups of water. Submerge your strawberries in the mixture for about 5 minutes – don’t worry, the vinegar won’t affect the taste of your strawberries – before moving them to a colander lined with paper towels to dry. Once fully dry, place them in the fridge on a layer of paper towels.
Why it works: Vinegar is a great way to kill bacteria and mold spores, which are the biggest contributors to the breakdown of strawberries. By submerging the strawberries in a diluted vinegar mixture, you’re providing an opportunity for the vinegar to get into those hard to reach crevices under the leaves and the tiny seed craters in the flesh of the strawberry to kill any lingering mold and bacteria without altering the taste or edibility of your strawberries. This way, you can feel confident that you’re putting clean, healthy strawberries in your fridge that won’t contribute to the growth or spread of mold and bacteria.
It’s a common misconception that you should store your strawberries in an airtight container. It’s seen as a recommended tip in blogs, magazines, and social media posts everywhere, but using an air tight container can actually increase the chances of mold and bacteria growth on your strawberries. Instead, you should remove the strawberries from the store-bought packaging when you get home, especially if it’s packaged in any type of saran wrap or non-breathable packaging. Then line a dish (a colander works best, if available) with a clean cloth or paper towel and store the strawberries loosely in the dish on top of the paper towel. Avoid putting a lid or cover on top of the dish so that the strawberries can breathe and expel moisture freely.
Note that this trick is only great for strawberries that haven’t been cut or had the stems removed. If you’re prepping your strawberries for a specific dish in advance that requires removing the stem or cutting the strawberries, make sure that you store them in an airtight container instead of an open container to protect the inner flesh from bacteria and mold. You can still line the container with a clean cloth or paper towels to help absorb some of the excess moisture.
Why it works: Mold and bacteria thrive in moist environments, so it’s important to store your strawberries in an environment where the moisture won’t get trapped and linger around your strawberries. By storing them loosely in an open container, you’re allowing air to move freely between the berries to wick away any moisture that could cause more rapid decay. Lining your container with paper towels helps to absorb any excess moisture that couldn’t be wicked away.
We all grow up being told to wash our fruit before consuming it, especially with the introduction of pesticides in the growing process. It’s an essential step to remove dirt and chemicals from your fruit to prevent digesting anything harmful to your body. But for most berries, strawberries included, you want to keep them as far away from moisture as possible until you’re ready to eat them. So avoid the urge to wash them when you first bring them home and instead try to keep them as dry as possible until you’re ready to eat them. Then when the time comes, you can rinse them all you want, but make sure you’re only rinsing the ones you plan to eat immediately and leaving the rest of them unwashed.
Why it works: Strawberries soak up moisture when you wash them, which can make them burst with freshness if you eat them immediately. But moisture creates the perfect breeding ground for bacteria and mold. So when you wash a strawberry and put it back in the fridge, you’ve introduced a prime environment for mold and bacteria to grow and spread in your fridge. If you’re not eating them immediately, hold off on washing them to prevent the strawberries from decaying more rapidly.
In the following order, combine all of the tips above to ensure your strawberries will last as long as possible. After purchase, inspect your strawberries and remove any that look like they might be getting mushy or showing any signs of mold. Then give them a quick vinegar bath and make sure you dry them thoroughly before placing them loosely in an open container lined with a fresh cloth or paper towels. When you’re ready to eat them, give them a quick rinse. Then all that’s left to do is enjoy all the long-lasting, fresh strawberries your little heart desires!
Why it works: By removing any decaying strawberries and giving them a quick diluted vinegar bath, you can remove any bacteria and mold spores that might have made their onto your strawberries on their journey to your fridge early on. Storing them properly in a dry, moisture-wicking environment will help prevent the growth and spread of any new bacteria and mold spores once they’re in your fridge. Rinsing them only when you’re ready to eat them will help to remove any remaining dirt or any dust that might have accumulated on the strawberries in your fridge while ensuring they’re not sitting in moisture for days on end, growing more bacteria and spores.
It’s just like getting that summer body, after all: If you’re willing to put a little bit of work in at the beginning, you can reap some pretty nice rewards in the end. Though we can’t guarantee that any of these tricks will actually get you that Baywatch-ready summer body, we can guarantee that they’ll help you get the most out of your strawberries, making them last up to a week longer than they would otherwise. And we think that’s a pretty delicious perk.
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