Strawberry season is here and it’s time to stock up.
Farm stands and U-pick strawberry farms are overflowing with strawberries. And if you don’t live near a farm, you can still get fresh strawberries at the grocery store at a reduced price. During peak season, fruits and vegetables are at the lowest price all year.
Stocking up on food when the price drops is one of the best meal-planning strategies to save money. The downside is that berries don’t keep for long. After a few days, those sweet, ripe bursts of flavor become soft.
In this article, you’ll learn how long strawberries last and tips to store berries to make them last a little longer. So, go ahead and get them while they’re on sale.
What Are the Benefits of Strawberries?
Strawberries are high in fiber and an excellent source of vitamin K and vitamin C. One cup of fresh strawberries contains 3.0 g of fiber (12% of DV) and 89.3 mg of vitamin C (149% of DV)! And berries are full of antioxidants that help protect your body against inflammation. Inflammation is the root cause of many chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
They’re also very low in natural sugar. In fact, compared to other fruits such as watermelon, banana or mango, berries are the lowest sugar fruits.
Fresh strawberries are bright red, firm and sweet. Once the berry starts to break down and lose its texture and brightness, they’re not as sweet. Berries have fragile skin so they ripen and break down quickly. Proper storage will help keep strawberries fresh longer.
Here are a few ways to preserve freshness so you can enjoy strawberries longer.
Do Strawberries Need to Be Refrigerated?
You’ve probably seen berries at farm stands or in non-refrigerated display cases at grocery stores.
Berries have fragile skin and soft flesh, so they have a short shelf life. They can sit on the counter at room temperature for a few hours. But for longer periods of storage, all berries need to be refrigerated.
Strawberries can be stored for about 7 days at 41℉ (5℃), the average temperature of a home refrigerator. After 2-3 days they lose their taste and quality. These bright bursts of flavor will keep longer at cooler temperatures, between 32℉ (0℃) and 37.4℉ (3℃). Temperatures that low keep them cold enough to slow down decay and prevent fungus growth but it’s not cold enough to freeze the berries.
To keep the berries from drying out, wrap them in plastic wrap and refrigerate them uncut and unwashed. The biggest tip to make your berries last is to wash them right before you eat them. Washing berries before refrigerating them speeds up the decay and fungus growth.
When strawberries hang around for too long, the sugars and organic acids break down and they lose their sweetness and get soft.
How to Freeze Strawberries
If you have more strawberries than you can use up before they go bad, you can store them in the freezer. The texture changes so you enjoy fresh strawberries while you can. Freezing destroys the cell membranes of fruits and vegetables and they get mushy. But they’re still nutritious and you can enjoy them in many other ways.
Unlike prepping strawberries for refrigeration, strawberries should be washed (not soaked) and patted dry before storing them in the freezer. According to the FDA, you can store strawberries safely in the freezer for 8 to 12 months.
Here’s how to prep strawberries before storing them in the freezer:
- Wash the berries but do not soak them
- Pat dry with a paper towel or tea towel
- Remove the stem with a paring knife
- Slice, cut, or leave the strawberries whole, depending on how you plan to use them later
- Store in a plastic freezer bag or container
Freezer hack: Freeze on a sheet pan (¼ sheet pan should fit in a freezer) until frozen, so they don’t freeze together. Once the berries are frozen, transfer them to a freezer bag or container.
What to do with frozen strawberries
While frozen berries are soft, they’re still nutritious and tasty. Here are a few ideas to use up frozen strawberries:
- Smoothies taste best when made with frozen fruits. When you use frozen fruit instead of ice cubes, smoothies have a thicker and frothier consistency.
- Strawberry preserves from frozen strawberries work just fine! Defrosted strawberries are soft, so they break down well when you cook them in sugar and thickeners such as pectin or cornstarch.
- Strawberry cake filling for sheet cakes or strawberry shortcakes.
- Strawberry sauce for ice cream or pancakes.
- Strawberry popsicles are an easy way to use strawberries before they go bad. To make these, you’ll need a popsicle mold. Follow steps 1-4 above, puree, and add to the mold before freezing.
Ideas to Use Strawberries Up Before They Go Bad
Before you throw out your not-so-fresh strawberries. Here are a few ways to use them up:
- Top yogurt, a salad, cold cereal, or hot cereal with fresh strawberries
- Toss strawberries into a salad like this strawberry balsamic spinach salad
- Make your own acai bowl and save yourself a trip to the store (and save money too!)
- Top pancakes with berries or add a strawberry puree to the pancake mix
- Fruit salad or fruit kababs
- Strawberry muffins
- Grill strawberries with a drizzle of balsamic glaze
- Dip strawberries in chocolate and refrigerate
- Add strawberries to a chicken and spinach wrap
- Strawberry shortcake (with leftover biscuits!)
- Make this berry trifle for a crowd-pleasing dessert
Wrap It UP
There’s nothing like a perfectly ripe, firm, and sweet strawberry, especially when it’s right from the farm. Unfortunately, they ripen quickly and lose freshness in a few days. Keep strawberries fresh and tasty a little longer with proper storage and enjoy the short season while it lasts.
What are some of your favorite ways to use up strawberries? Let me know in the comments below.
About Jennifer Messineo, MS, RD
I’m a food loving Registered Dietitian. I help families plan meals, reduce food waste and save money on food!