Everything You Need to Know About Washing and Storing Berries
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 blackberries, blueberries, gooseberries, raspberries, and 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. Firmer berries like strawberries are sturdy enough to handle a quick rinse but they also can wait to be washed until they are to be used.
Holding a package of berries under running water is not the correct approach: The pressure of the water can squish 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' flesh. 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.
While washing berries in water is a good way to get off obvious dirt and grime, there is a technique that will give an even deeper clean. Since berries grow close to the ground and have a porous, sponge-like flesh, dirt that gets trapped may go undetected even after a quick rinse. To ensure that berries are perfectly clean, dip them in a 3:1 mixture of water and distilled white vinegar. This not only washes the berries thoroughly, but it also extends their shelf life. Avoid soaking the berries in the vinegar and water mixture as berries will begin to absorb the vinegar flavor. Dry gently but thoroughly on a paper or cloth towel.
How Long Will Berries Last?
Can You Freeze Berries?
Frozen berries are great to have on hand for smoothies and juices. They're safe to eat and can keep for months, as opposed to just a few days in the refrigerator. After washing, carefully pat them dry with a paper towel until all excess water has been thoroughly absorbed. Transfer the berries to a freezer bag and lay in a single flat layer, which prevents clumping.