Berry

How to Keep Berries Fresh for Longer

July 10, 2017

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

This article was originally published in June 2015, but we're sharing it again for berry season 2017.

119 Comments

Really R. September 15, 2018
Can you use the white vinegar method on grapes?
 
Rosa L. September 24, 2018
Good idea. I've only used it on fresh berries but there is no reason it wouldn't work on grapes. The goal is to kill any mold/mildew and it works like a charm on berries.
 
Karen July 27, 2017
I always do this to my strawberries but I store them in a glass bowl. They last 1 to 2 weeks. I love this method.
 
Robert K. July 11, 2017
I have found a new product that keeps my berries fresh. It is a vented plastic storage box that comes in 3 sizes. It is Rubbermaid FreshWorks Produce Saver. It is vented to allow moisture to escape. So far its been working and keeping my berries free from mold and firm for a week or so.
 
george H. June 30, 2017
I agree with sandee except I skip one step. I buy blueberries in two pound tubs from Costco. That tub is slightly more than the capacity of a Zip Lock one quart freezer bag. I fill the bag really full and freeze it. I eat the remaining fresh ones that day or the next.
 
FS June 30, 2017
Wow, this thread really gets the comments, even though it's an old one.<br />I agree with those that recommend freezing rinsed and dried blueberries, that's what I do. As for any other berries ... sigh ... there isn't much good stuff to choose from where I live in the semi-rural Deep South. Strawberries and raspberries come from the store, and lately I haven't even seen organic <br />strawberries. Farmers market, you say? Not within 30 or so miles from here, and most of the few fruit stands that sporadically pop up offer commercially grown produce.<br />Growing strawberries and raspberries isn't a solution, they don't like our climate, bugs and diseases. Blueberries do well for some, alas, my plants died. Sigh ... Long story short, I will try the vinegar trick on strawberries.
 
sandee June 29, 2017
Don't wash the bluberries, lay them out in a single layer and freeze them. When they are completely frozen, remove them and put in freezer bag. When you want to use some, grab the amount you want, rinse them in cold water, <br />lay them out on a paper towel. They will defrost in a couple of minutes
 
Soc P. July 26, 2016
ok then, where I live, the nearest direct farm stand is 90 minutes away. has limited amounts of whatever they planted that year, and is not close to any other farm or farm stand. I have visited 5 of the farms that come to the farmer's market and have known who they are and what they grow for years. when my kids were young (and homeschooled) we went to the farms every couple of weeks to pick our own along with several other families. It is an all day activity and you never know what is going to be available. I learned to can all kinds of things. Now, the traffic is worse. most of these farms and farmstands are at least 2 hours away. It takes more than an hour to get to annapolis and the farmstands are beyond that. yes, some markets get their products from warehouses. my daughter's friend does that in maryland -- he goes to the warehouse and stocks his market stand from there. still might be fresher than the grocery store where they go to the warehouse a couple of days a week. I am pretty sure that most of us are aware of these things and know that if we could, we would pick in the early morning and keep the ripe beauties dry on the counter until eaten by our grateful and well fed families. I appreciate the growers wanting us to know what to do if we get these beauties in our hands. the reality is that we have to make do with what we can get, sometimes under trying circumstances, and any advice that might help is worth a try. would be nice if messages from growers or other experts could start with an identifier like "grower" or "restaurant chef" or whatever so that we can appreciate the circumstances that the advice is based on. <br />off in search of a "fresh" fennel for a sick friend (they have mostly gone to seed with the heat around here, but maybe I can find a nice full and frondy one hiding in the shade...)
 
george H. July 21, 2016
I'm certainly not going to repeat my comment from a year ago(see about 20 comments below) but you folks must get really crummy produce compared with the west coast to need to try all of these elaborate methods.
 
LaMar July 22, 2016
haha! I'm from the east coast and just returned from visiting my relative in LA, and YES I WAS JEALOUS<br />
 
suzan C. July 22, 2016
yes, i read your comments and found them interesting. i live in a desert far far away (not arizona) so, yes, i have some crummy produce, mostly strawberries <br />
 
Soc P. July 26, 2016
So glad your market has only the freshest produce available. I shop at the once a week farmer's market here in northern virginia, and rarely does a berry last more than a few days. You are fortunate that your farmers, berries and lifestyle are so perfect. Please consider that this discussion is taking place because some of us need to find ways to keep our food as fresh and un-gross as possible.
 
george H. July 26, 2016
I generally buy my strawberries not at the farmer's market but from the grower's produce stand. Having grown up on and off around the Chesapeake Bay(Virginia, Maryland, Delaware) I know those places exist. My grandparents operated one. If you live in the DC sprawl you may have to travel to find fresh berries but I'll bet they're out there. I live in the San Francisco Bay area so it's not exactly rural here. Takes me at least an hour round trip to go get strawberries so I buy a flat or two. Give some away to elderly friends of my parents, usually by a half flat for a client(I'm a builder) and ten I pick through the ones I'm keeping. Any with cuts or bruises are capped and frozen for winter smoothies. Only the most perfect ones get wrapped in paper towels and refrigerated. One thing that is better out here is it's dry all summer. Strawberries don't like being rained on and once they've gotten wet the only way to save them is to thoroughly dry them before they are put away. Remember also that most vendors at "farmer's markets" aren't farmers, at least out here. Many just go down to the wholesale produce markets and pick up their stuff. That's where the colorfully printed boxes come from. I know that you think that I'm picking on you but Food52 keeps sending me e-mails about another post on this thread. I keep chiming in because the few professional growers who have posted on here ALL say keep the berries dry and cool and NOT to pre-wash them. So you may think that I'm some West Coast superior to thou type but I'm really just trying to get you to listen to the damn people who actually grow the things.<br />
 
Lynn C. July 21, 2016
The best way, I have found, to extend the life of strawberries is to hull them and then to stand them, on the hulled end, on a paper towel lined airtight container & store in the refrigerator. You'll be surprised just how long they last.
 
susan F. July 20, 2016
I wash all my vegetables and fruit as soon as I get home from grocery store. I use solution of small squirt of dishwashing detergent (like Dawn) and 1/4 c of white vinegar to large bowl of cold tap water. I rinsed and dry on towel or drying pad. This trick I learned from my new daughter-in-law. Amazing how fresh my vegetables last! The only problem has been with fuzzy fruits like peaches and apricots. They brown quickly.
 
Bob M. July 20, 2016
Yep. This works for most things. The fewer chemicals in the dish soap the better.
 
tamater S. July 20, 2016
Why use dish soap at all - why not just the vinegar and water?
 
Rosa L. June 29, 2017
Water to vinegar ratio of 10:1, rinse any berries in the solution, lift out of solution, drain in a colander and refrigerate...preferably in a Tupperware fresh product container. They should easily last 1-2 weeks.
 
suzan C. July 20, 2016
i have been using a vinegar rinse for about 2 years. it has worked fabulously with strawberries, they keep at least 2 weeks or until i use them up. blueberries don't seem to give me much trouble. (i don't rinse the strawberries but don't notice a vinegar flavor, maybe it's because i don't use alot of vinegar)
 
Merry July 20, 2016
We have had great success with Fresh Paper from Fenugreen. First discovered at the Dupont Farmer's Market in DC and now find it in Whole Foods and on Amazon. Great for berries, greens, etc.
 
CookingIsLikeLove June 16, 2016
So hard to say what works as it all depends on the berry. Raspberries barely make it all the way home and end up stored in my tummy. Blackberries get a vinegar rinse with cold water to get rid of the tiny white bugs, then are either inhaled or last long enough to get put in a pie. Blueberries are given a quick rinse then popped into my mouth, sometimes making it to the freezer....
 
Walter B. June 10, 2016
I tried this with raspberries, but after a day, they had become spottily pale, had lost some of their juice, and were pretty tasteless.
 
LaMar June 9, 2016
Wow, so much work. Put UNWASHED berries into glass jars with lids in the fridge. They last for weeks (really...weeks...it's bizarre. Something about bacteria not getting into the jar) google this method, it really works for the blueberries and raspberries I frequently buy in large quantities.
 
tamater S. July 20, 2016
I hope this works, I really do, because how simple is that? Since you say you've been doing it, I'll trust, and thank you in advance!
 
Bob M. May 28, 2016
Great idea. Thanks.
 
marti May 28, 2016
Where is that ceramic colander with handle from?
 
Bob December 7, 2015
Thanks for sharing
 
Bob December 7, 2015
This is what I need to know.<br /><br />
 
John December 7, 2015
Interesting.