Wondering how to store strawberries once they’ve been picked from the backyard or brought home from the store or a farmer’s market?
Learning how to grow strawberries is easy and there really is something special about the taste of a strawberry from your own yard, while great store-bought versions can also taste sublime. Store them incorrectly, though and they can perish quickly.
To ensure the fruit you grow or buy retains its best qualities, we’ve put together a guide to how to store strawberries.
How to store strawberries
If you know when to plant strawberries in accordance with the climate and growing conditions where you live, around three months later a delicious harvest from the bare root or potted plants can be yours. But strawberries can deteriorate quickly if storage guidelines aren’t followed. This is how to store strawberries so you can make the most of your crop, or those you selected in a store.
How to keep strawberries fresh
For the best results when it comes to storing strawberries, it’s important to harvest homegrown berries at the right moment. They should be picked before they become a deep shade of red and lose their shine as these berries will be overripe and can be soft already. Equally, don’t pick too early. A ripe strawberry should have no green or white coloring and will be red and shiny.
In store, look for the same thing – in other words, shining fully red strawberries. ‘If possible, select the strawberries individually instead of buying them prepackaged,’ recommend Peggy Van Laanen and Amanda Scott, professor and extension program leader for food and nutrition, and extension associate, The Texas A&M University System. ‘If the fruit is prepackaged, it’s harder to see whether it is moldy or damaged. If the strawberries are prepackaged, avoid sticky or stained containers, which may indicate that the strawberries have been damaged.’
To keep strawberries fresh, follow these steps.
1. Don’t wash strawberries before storing
If you’re serving up strawberries as soon as you’ve brought them in from the yard or got them home, they should be washed. But if they won’t be eaten straightaway, to ensure they last as long as possible, don’t wash them.
The reason? Water on the berries can make them moldy, so keep them dry.
Do check the strawberries before storing, however. Discard any that show any signs of mold development or are dark in color or soft. Left in with the others, they can spoil the entire haul.
2. Leave the stems in place
Another tactic for keeping strawberries fresh for longer is to keep the stems on. Only remove them after washing the berries immediately before eating.
3. Store strawberries in the refrigerator
Strawberries should be stored in the refrigerator until preparation and serving. Use the crisper drawer.
‘The optimum storage temperature for strawberries in the home is 32 to 36ºF (0 to 2ºC),’ say Linda J Harris, food safety and applied microbiology specialist, department of food science and technology, UC Davis, and Elizabeth Mitcham, postharvest extension specialist, department of plant science, UC Davis.
The experts recommend keeping the strawberries in their closed plastic clamshell containers or putting into a partially opened plastic bag ‘to maintain humidity’.
4. Freeze strawberries to lengthen storage
With a harvest of strawberries too large to eat them all fresh, an alternative is to freeze them. To freeze strawberries, first check none are spoiling and discard any that are, then wash under cool running water, drain and dry gently using paper towels.
Remove the stems and place whole strawberries or slices in a single layer and apart from one another on a cookie sheet. Freeze for a few hours until they are solid, then place the frozen strawberries in an airtight container or freezer bag and seal it. Store in the freezer for a period of up to six months.
Do strawberries last longer in the fridge or on the counter?
Strawberries last longer in the refrigerator. Keep them out on the counter and they can spoil quickly. Note, though, that unlike in the cases of storing potatoes or storing onions, strawberries are not produce you can keep for a long time even if you adopt the best practices for storing them.
‘Strawberries can only be stored for up to seven days under optimum conditions, and that shelf life also depends on how ripe the fruit was when purchased or picked,’ say Linda J Harris and Elizabeth Mitcham.
Will strawberries ripen at room temperature?
Strawberries will not ripen at room temperature. In fact, strawberries do not ripen after being picked which is why it’s important to check them in store before purchase, and make sure your own homegrown strawberries are fully ripe – but not overripe – before harvesting.
Strawberries from the kitchen garden should be red all over and bright. As for fruits from the store? ‘Avoid strawberries that: are poorly colored with large white or green areas; are mushy, damaged, leaking juice, shriveled or moldy; have dry, brown caps,’ say Peggy Van Laanen and Amanda Scott.
Always place strawberries in the refrigerator to store them, and check regularly and discard any that become moldy or soft. Eat them within a few days.
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Sarah is a freelance journalist and editor. Previously executive editor of Ideal Home, she’s specialized in interiors, property and gardens for over 20 years, and covers interior design, house design, gardens, and cleaning and organizing a home for H&G. She’s written for websites, including Houzz, Channel 4’s flagship website, 4Homes, and Future’s T3; national newspapers, including The Guardian; and magazines including Future’s Country Homes & Interiors, Homebuilding & Renovating, Period Living, and Style at Home, as well as House Beautiful, Good Homes, Grand Designs, Homes & Antiques, LandLove and The English Home among others. It’s no big surprise that she likes to put what she writes about into practice, and is a serial house renovator.
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