There are few feelings more tragic than reaching for a handful of fresh strawberries, only to realize the berries have shriveled up and turned a deep burgundy color or, worse, gotten moldy. The bad news for those looking to keep strawberries fresh for as long as possible is that strawberries have a decidedly short shelf life. They really only last on the shelf a few days, due to “their thin skin and fragile structure,” writes Harold McGee in On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen. And that’s even with cold storage. So what is the best way to store fresh strawberries and keep strawberries from going bad?
According to the experts at the California Strawberry Commission, the best way to store fresh strawberries is in the fridge, either in the original clamshell with those holes for ventilation or in a paper towel-lined container. They also suggest that you, “Separate the berries by layering them with paper towels to maximize freshness.” You don’t want to remove the caps, or green tops, of the strawberries before storing, either; that’s because berries lose some moisture when you do that, according to the North Carolina Strawberry Association, which certainly doesn’t help them stay fresh.
And you do as with raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries, you only want to wash as many strawberries as you will eat or use at once. That’s because, as McGee explains, “Even rinsing in water can make delicate berries more susceptible to infection by abrading their protective epidermal layer with clinging dirt particles.”
You can also freeze your strawberries. The strawberry experts at the NCSA suggest that you wash and take the caps off strawberries, then lay them out on a wax paper-lined cookie tray. Pop that in the freezer until the fruit is firm, and then put the now-frozen strawberries in an airtight container or plastic bag. These frozen berries will be great for smoothies or jams or pastry fillings, since they’ll probably get a little mushy upon defrosting.
Really, the only foolproof way to ensure your strawberries won’t go bad before you have a chance to eat them is to devour them as soon as you get your hands on them. OK, that might be a little hyperbolic, but that is a good rule of thumb—and when it’s strawberry season, why wouldn’t you want to eat as many berries as possible?