Berries can be quite expensive at the store any time of year, which makes it all the more frustrating when they spoil just a day or two later. Fortunately, there is a simple, inexpensive way to make berries last longer — up to two weeks!
Why do berries go bad so quickly?
In the wild, berry season is surprisingly short. Some varieties, like boysenberries, are only in season for two short months in May and June. Most of us think of berries as summer fruits, so we expect them to be available well into mid-autumn.
To meet consumer demand, supermarkets import berries from regions and countries where the growing season is longer. With their soft-skins and juicy bodies, berries don’t ship well. They bruise easily and release their juices during transport in their sealed plastic clamshell or cardboard boxes.
Mold, which favors a warm and damp environment, quickly begins to grow — especially on those at the bottom center of the container. You know, the ones you don’t see when you’re trying to find a package of berries that are all in good shape.
How To Make Berries Last Longer
Best Practice: Buy In Season
As with most produce, berries are best when purchased in season. That’s when your supermarket looks to local suppliers, meaning your berries are fresh and haven’t been jostled around during a long transport.
In the U.S., berry season varies by region. Along the West Coast, and in the South and Southeast, fresh berries are available in gardens, stores, and Farmer’s Markets from May through mid-October. In the Midwest, berry season also starts in May but usually ends around mid-September. Those on the East Coast face an even shorter season: typically mid-June through late September.
To find out when berries are in season in your area, check with your local Farmer’s Market or use an online seasonal food guide.
Second Best: A Quick Bath
I adore berries–and not just because of my last name–but used to find myself throwing them away far too often. Then I learned to take 10 minutes as soon as I brought berries home to give them a quick bath. Now, ordinarily, you should hold off washing produce until just before using it. Berries (and melons) are exceptions to that rule. Washing them in an anti-fungal homemade berry wash right away will prolong their lifespan.
Homemade Berry Wash
- Mix one part white distilled vinegar and five parts cool water in a clean bowl. Obviously, how much you need depends on how many berries you bought. Most times, I use 4 oz. vinegar and 20 oz. cold water.
- Soak the berries in the vinegar bath for 5 minutes then remove them with a slotted spoon. Dry them on paper towels, or spin them for a bit in a salad spinner.
- While berries dry, dunk their container in the vinegar water for 5 minutes to kill lingering mold spores. Be sure to toss out any padding that came in the container and replace it with a clean paper towel. Or transfer them to a fruit keeper container. (Amazon link.)
- Once your berries are dry, return them to the container and store them in the fridge. Change the paper towel every day or two, and your berries will stay fresh up to two weeks.
You still don’t need to throw berries away if they begin turning soft before you can use them. Turn them into homemade fruit roll-ups for a healthy, kid-pleasing snack.
Looking for a quicker solution? Place berries on a baking sheet so they’re not touching, freeze then transfer them to a resealable freezer bag. Frozen berries are great in smoothies and shakes, or you can pop them into a glass of wine or cocktail to keep it chilled. Apartment Therapy has some fantastic ideas about using frozen berries in sauces, too!
Recipes Using Berries:
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