Kitchen Confidence

How to Keep Berries Fresh for Longer

by • June 7, 2015 71 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 (71)

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4 days 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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4 days 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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4 days 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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3 days 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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5 days 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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3 days 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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5 days 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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5 days 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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3 days 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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5 days 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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3 days 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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5 days 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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5 days 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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6 days 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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6 days 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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3 days 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.

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6 days ago Monica Maher Junge

A long time ago on Martha Stewart's old show she said rinse your blue, raz and black berries under cold water, dry on paper towels and put them on plates, I use styrophome without touching each other and put in the fridge (and I put another towels on them). They mostly keep for a week and so do my strawberries.

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6 days ago Michael Sierchio

Vinegar provides acidity, but doesn't quench oxygen. To inhibit mold and keep berries fresher, use ascorbic acid.

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6 days ago Michael Sierchio

Distilled white vinegar has a pH of 2.4. A 5% solution of ascorbic acid in water is about the same.

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6 days ago Walter Bode

Harold McGee recommends a 30-second bath in 135-degree water. I've found this quite successful.

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6 days ago Rosemarie Martino

I store them in glass mason jars and don't wash them until I'm ready to consume them! Found this on the internet and it's amazing!!

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6 days ago Panfusine

I use lukewarm water with white vinegar when washing the berries. then let them dry out on paper towels layered over a colander.

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6 days ago Deacon Maccubbin

That's a lot of work! I've got a much simpler way -- buy smaller quantities more frequently and eat 'em up within 3 or 4 days! I rarely ever lose any berries to mold that way, and I am never without berries in my fridge.

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6 days ago [email protected]

I use 1 oz vinegar, either apple cider or reg. vinegar to 10 oz water for a 6 oz container of berries. I usually only do this for the "fuzzy" berries, like raspberries or strawberries. Just swish them for about 15 sec. and rinse, spread on a paper towel and gently dry them. I rinse out the container they came in and put the dry berries back in. That vinegar is so diluted you can't taste it, but my hubby says he can, so he rinses what he needs for his cereal. The last well over a week.

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6 days ago nratt

Aside from vinegar, might a lemon juice dilution work similarly?

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6 days ago george hamilton

Blue berries out here in the west may not be exactly the same as eastern varieties but a two pound tub from Costco will live well over a week in the refrigerator just as they came from the store. Strawberries I buy from a strawberry grower about 30 minutes away from home so to make the trip worthwhile I buy at least half a flat. Three baskets will keep up to two weeks if the entire basket is wrapped in paper towels, unwashed, then stored in a gallon sized Ziplock freezer bag. The other three baskets have the stems cut out and are put in quart sized Ziplock freezer bags, unwashed, and frozen for use during the winter months. I also freeze unwashed blueberries when they're cheap. They both go in my daily fruit smoothie breakfast along with other fruits, orange juice and a raw egg. I don't wash fresh or frozen fruit until just before use.

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6 days ago marthafelix

Leave them unwashed in a cool part of your house(but not in the fridge) in a flat plate side by side avoiding them to touch each other.