Kitchen Confidence

How to Keep Berries Fresh for Longer

by • June 7, 2015 82 Comments

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Don't let your berries boss you around. 

Berries: can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em. Like many coveted objects, berries are both precious and frustrating, expensive and fragile. What is more maddening than splurging on vivid, juicy berries at the market only to find that your fruity jewels have turned to mush—or worse, have been overtaken by dreaded mold—when you return to them for a mid-week treat? 

Don't despair just yet: This berry horror story does not have to be your destiny. The culprits behind berry mold are the evil, microscopic mold spores waiting to make a home of the friendly, moist skin of your gorgeous berries. Fortunately, there is a simple way to kill off the mold spores and bacteria that find your berries as delicious as you do. 

More: Even if your strawberries are past their prime, they'll be perfect in strawberry rhubarb jam

It might seem counterintuitive to wash your berries before you're ready to eat them. One of the cardinal rules of keeping berries mold-free is to leave them unwashed until the moment before consumption. 

But by washing your berries in a solution of vinegar and water, you can extend their shelf-life by days (sometimes even weeks!). In a large bowl, make a diluted vinegar bath—1 cup vinegar, 3 cups water—and give your berries a dunk. The vinegar will eliminate any pesky mold and bacteria. 

Next, drain your berries in a colander and rinse them under cool running water. This guarantees that you won't be able to taste any lingering traces of vinegar later on. 

Now that you've washed your berries, it's time to dry them as thoroughly as possible. Do not be fooled: Moisture is still the enemy. The same salad spinner you use to dry off greens can be used to wick the water from your berries. Line it with about 3 layers of paper towels in order to create a pillow for your berries, then spin your berries for about 15 seconds, or until they are completely dry. 

Instead of putting the berries back into the container they came in, where they will crowd each other, upgrade their digs. Place them in a sealable container lined with paper towels and leave the lid partially open as to avoid trapping moisture. 

But what if you return from the store with pints of berries only to realize there's no vinegar in the pantry? A quick bath in hot water will also work to destroy bacteria and mold spores.

Dunk your berries in water between 120 and 140°F for approximately 30 seconds. Dry and store them in the same way you would after a vinegar wash.

Once you've learned how to extend the lifespan of your berries, the real question becomes: What will you do with them? If you can resist eating all of your berries fresh, a blueberry tartsummer berry pudding, or raspberry swamp pie might be the ideal ending to your next summertime feast. 

Do you have any tricks for keeping your berries fresh? Let us know in the comments! 

Top photo by Yossi Arefi, all others by James Ransom

Tags: kitchen confidence, berries, fresh, vinegar, rinsing, mold, how-to & diy

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Comments (82)

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7 days ago Stephanee Rose

I have always placed paper towel lining the bottom & then the top of the original containers after 1st examining EVERY berry in the package. Blackberries that feel as tho their little postules will explode any moment should be eaten 1st. Yum!

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10 days ago Rosa Lee Gibbons

The vinegar rinse I use is just 10 to 1 water to vinegar. I don't rinse them, berries stay fresh for days and there is no residual taste of vinegar.

The best containers for keeping ANY produce fresh are the Tupperware Refrigerator Keepers. Different types of fruits and vegetables require differing amounts of air flow. These containers have two little tabs you open or close and a handy chart printed on the side to tell you which to used. They come in a variety of sizes. No party necessary. Just search Tupperware in your browser.

Between the rinse and the Tupperware my berries stay fresh much longer. And, no, I don't sell Tupperware.

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18 days ago george hamilton

I am new to this thread but it has me scratching my head. Why, when the people who grow berries tell you to never pre-wash them, not to use vinegar but to keep them cool and dry do you keep talking about how you do both? Can't you read? Did you look at my 16 day old UNWASHED strawberries? Does anyone want to do this wash thing, wait 16 days and then show us a picture of what you have now?
In answer to Karen I do store blueberries in the refrigerator. I store them in the two pound plastic container that they are sold in. Just finished the last from a two pound container(over two weeks old) this morning and they were fine. As the summer wears on the blueberries have more of a tendency to mold. I always invert the container and look for mold before buying. If you get a few moldy berries in a container after storing for a while cull them out and wash only the ones that you are going to use just before use with plain water. Once you start seeing moldy berries on the bottom, buy smaller containers and use them faster. When that gets financially burdensome, go to your freezer for some of the ones that you froze while they were cheap and perfect. Frozen ones won't work for everything but they're fine on breakfast cereal and in a smoothie.

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18 days ago Karen Worley

Sarah, after this step: Place them in a sealable container lined with paper towels and leave the lid partially open as to avoid trapping moisture.
Do you store blueberries in refrigerator?

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23 days ago george hamilton

These strawberries have been wrapped in paper towels and refrigerated for a couple of days over two weeks. http://i3.photobucket.com...

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23 days ago Marc Bowler

If you don't have a spinner use a pillow case and whip it around like a cowboy lasso!

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25 days ago Just Thinking

As soon as we bring any berries into the house from the market, we soak them for about 10 min in the vinegar bath mentioned above. I do not rinse my berries. However, I do try to dry them pretty good. My question??? how do you get the hazy film off of the blueberries. I put a few in a colander and roll them around. This removes a lot, however, it will also act as a sandpaper if you do it too long.

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26 days ago Marjorie Karlsen

I tried this method on strawberries and they turned to mush! I agree with the professional growers - keep the berries dry and cold and only rinse them before consuming.

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26 days ago Rino Marcus Gallo

freeze em sexy

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26 days ago Tess of the B'Urbervilles

I have used this method for years and I swear by it. I find it's easiest to use my salad spinner. I fill the spinner with the water and vinegar solution and then when it's time to rinse the fruit I just lift out the basket and rinse with the sprayer. Then I use the same solution for the next batch of fruit. I use this for all my fruit: berries, grapes, apples, pears, peaches, and most of my vegetables.

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about 1 month ago Kristy

Over-ripe berries can easily be used to flavor kombucha. You just pop them in and let them soak. They can be consumed as well if you chop them up well. Just leave enough room at the top since fruit ferments quickly and adds to the carbonation. Strawberries are especially good in kombucha.

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about 1 month ago Brenda Pawloski

I have no problem eating them the first day. If I do have overnight berries, I gently turn the plastic clamshell over so that they are resting on their opposite side. Just put them on everything, yogurt, desserts, salads, entrees, don't even try to "save" them! They are like manna!

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26 days ago MissChristina

Hey, cool! I do the sideway clamshells too! :-)

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about 1 month ago dylan

If the berries are a bit past their prime try fermenting them (not into alcohol) for a few days. they are AMAZING

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about 1 month ago silverspringcat

Yes, I have all three sizes of the OXO produce keeper and even went back to the buy the medium size so that I would have 2. They so far are working wonderfully. I had lettuce in one for 3 weeks and it was perfect.

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about 1 month ago gustus

Has anybody tried the new "Greensaver" product from Oxo? It comes with a replaceable activated charcoal filter that they say soaks up the ethylene gas that produce emits which otherwise accelerates spoilage. I trust the Oxo brand but would love to get some feedback from actual users.

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about 1 month ago silverspringcat

Yes, I have all three sizes of the OXO produce keeper and even went back to the buy the medium size so that I would have 2. They so far are working wonderfully. I had lettuce in one for 3 weeks and it was perfect.

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about 1 month ago cindy

as a strawberry grower - we don't ever recommend the vinegar method explained here. We recommend no washing at all until ready to serve and then just use a gentle spray of cool water in the colander. Strawberries should be washed with the caps intact so no flavor is washed away. When you get berries home, you can transfer them to a Tupperware type container lined with a paper towel and keep them in the fridge. The most important thing to remember is that berries like to be cold and dry!

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about 1 month ago george hamilton

Interesting to see my earlier post confirmed by a professional berry grower. "Cold and dry". My method was taught to me by a strawberry grower that I bought from at a local farmer's market. Don't know why you all have mold issues unless your berries aren't very recently picked and then sat out at room temperature or above.

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about 1 month ago ustabahippie

Glad to see this confirmation. I still have strawberries in good shape after several days wrapped in a cotton napkin and kept in the container in which they were purchased with no top.

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about 1 month ago Ruby Ornstein

You will find it awfully difficult to remove the taste of vinegar from strawberries. I just tried this trick and then rinsed the berries for quite some time. The old adage "if it seems too good to be true..." We are now treating our berries with baking soda to neutralize the acid of the vinegar.

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about 1 month ago silverspringcat

that's odd I did the vinegar rinse and then rinses with cold water and there was no lingering taste of vinegar. A week later and my berries kept in the OXO keeper were as fresh as when I got them.

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about 1 month ago James Rehner

so many contradictory comments..I am going to try the hot water method, then use my salad spinner and then place in one of my rubbermaid produce saver containers

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about 1 month ago Rudy

I agree with Deacon Maccubbin, I only buy enough that will be consumed. I will buy more if they are on special, but I always wash the strawberries and cut off the greens. I then place the strawberries in a glass container and leave it in the fridge uncovered. They last a few days, but usually they are eaten by then.

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about 1 month ago Anne

If you're willing to spend $9.49, then the easiest way to keep berries perfect for 5-6 days is to go straight to Amazon.com and buy the Prepworks from Progressive International LKS-08 Berry Keeper. I kid you not, it is remarkable. I'm a raspberry fanatic, and we all know how quickly they go bad. (The minute you get them home practically.) No, I don't work for Amazon or the container company. We have all sizes of their containers though and they keep fruits and veg in great shape for a ridiculous amount of time.

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about 1 month ago Jill

i freeze the blueberries right in the container they come in. I take out what i need for that morning's cereal, and wash them. They are still a little frozen in the cereal, but delish

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about 1 month ago Katherine Hall-Patton

Same here. I freeze them and pick on them whenever I want a cold snack. They last for weeks or more.