How To Keep Strawberries Fresh

Strawberries are my favorite fruit with the taste of summer sunshine in every bite. Strawberries are blood sugar friendly, a great source of vitamin C, potassium, and fiber. The Portland Metro area enjoys fresh farm-grown strawberries from June (Hoods, the ultimate berry, but only a spring bearing plant) through the first frost in fall (Albions and other everbearings), sometimes as late as October.

I was often disappointed with keeping strawberries. If I cleaned them, sliced them with sugar and put them in the fridge the guys wouldn’t eat them up before they molded. I prefer them without sugar. I’d take a few for lunch at work but left sitting on the counter the rest of the berries would rot before the guys would think to eat them. If I freeze them the texture changes and I love the toothsomeness of the fresh berry. I dislike paying precious money (and they are premium prices these days like all other food, I mean, really, $8.00 for a pound of bacon, $4.00 for a loaf of bread, $18.00 for 6 pints of strawberries, outrageous, Gold Rush prices) and wasting the food.

I stumbled on a method that keeps my berries “fresh” for up to two weeks. It’s easy. You’ll need a Tupperware or other plastic container about 8” by 11” by 4” with a lid that fits. I suppose you could use a glass container as well, but do not use a metal container. And you don’t need to buy new; I see them all the time at Goodwill, just make sure the lid fits snugly. You’ll need some paper towels. You’ll need that half flat of strawberries. If you are feeding large families you could use multiple containers. This process works best if you do it the day you purchase and bring home the berries.

My container

My container

Do not wash the berries first. I mean it. You can pick out leaves and debris, but it’s best to handle the berries as little as possible.

Line the container with one layer of paper towel.

Paper towel layer one

Paper towel layer one

Put in a layer of berries. I put about 2 pints in a layer. Pick through the berries as you go and remove any that are very soft, over-ripe, bruised, or damaged in any way. I usually remove the damaged ones directly to the mouth. After removing and eating any questionable berries you end up with slightly less than 2 pints per layer. I distribute the berries so they are mostly not touching each other as much as possible and with light fingers sort of lay them on their sides.

First layer of berries

First layer of berries

Place one layer of paper towel on top of this first layer of strawberries. Make sure there is enough paper towel covering the bottom layer of berries so the two layers do not touch.

Paper towel layer two

Paper towel layer two

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Place another layer of strawberries on the paper towel. Inspect and arrange as described above.

Second layer of berries

Second layer of berries

Place one layer of paper towel on the second layer of berries.

Paper towel layer three

Paper towel layer three

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Distribute the last layer of berries.

Third layer of berries

Third layer of berries

Put one more layer of paper towel on top of the third layer of berries.

Final layer of paper towel

Final layer of paper towel

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Put the lid loosely on top of the paper towel. Don’t attempt to close the lid. At this point the air circulation helps keep the berries fresher.

Lid loosely placed on top of paper towel

Lid loosely placed on top of paper towel

Here’s an end view where you can see the layers.
Layers of paper towel and berries with loose lid

Layers of paper towel and berries with loose lid

Put the container in the fridge. I put mine on the bottom shelf where it is coolest. If your fridge has a spot that freezes don’t place the container there; the texture of the berries will change. While using up the first layer of berries with the lid not closed tightly on the container be sure not to set anything on the top of the container as it will crush all the layers of berries.

Wash the berries when you are ready to use them. I take a few out, wash and stem them, and leave them on a plate on the counter and magically they disappear. The guys would never open the container and eat a berry off the stem. Spoiled men!

Each time you open the container take a quick look at each layer below by gently picking up a corner of the paper towel. Pick out any that are getting too soft or starting to mold and discard. Wipe the lid of moisture condensation. Replace the top paper towel if it feels damp. As you finish a layer of berries replace the top layer of paper towel when they become damp. Once the layers have gone below the top of the container secure the lid giving you more moisture control.

I’ve had berries last more than two weeks with that fresh texture mouth-feel and picked yesterday flavor. If you have a larger family who are strawberry fans you probably won’t have to worry about making them last, and this is also a great way just to keep them fresh.

We don’t eat much dessert, but that plate full of washed and stemmed berries often serves as such. Then there are those days where a little effort dresses the berry and delights the tongue with refreshing combinations. Sliced strawberries on spinach salad with bacon and chopped hard-boiled eggs and a light vinaigrette. A few strawberries with a little dab of mascarpone and a drizzle of dark chocolate syrup hits all the right notes. Strawberries and cottage cheese. Strawberries and thick rich cream like grandma used to serve, no sugar. Strawberries and brie. Strawberries with a little smear of almond butter. And if your blood sugar can tolerate it, strawberries dipped in sour cream (the highest quality you can afford), with a tiny sprinkle of brown sugar. Yaumm yaumm. I somehow never seem to have the patience to bake anything to go with fresh berries and it’s just as well. My tongue likes baked goods, but my blood sugar doesn’t.

The farmer I get my berries from says they are still coming strong because of our mild summer weather this year; we should have fresh Oregon berries available at local farmer’s markets and for self-picking at local farms likely though October with the weather forecasts I’ve been seeing. Try this method for yourself and see if it works for you. Happy berry eating!

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