By Cassidy Hobbs Hall
Area Agent, Family and Consumer Sciences
Johnston County Cooperative Extension
Does one moldy strawberry ruin the whole bunch? Should I wash berries before I put them away? Does vinegar preserve strawberries? What’s the best way to freeze? You’ve got questions and we have answers!
If you plan to visit a farm and pick your own strawberries, be sure to choose berries that are bright red with minimal to no green left on the fruit. Contrary to popular belief, strawberries will not ripen after harvesting like bananas do.
Once you’ve gotten fresh berries, arrange them in a shallow container in the refrigerator to allow air flow, unwashed, and keep them cool. Many consumers actually minimize the shelf-life of strawberries by washing them too soon and stacking too many berries on top of one another.
Don’t wash your strawberries until it is time to eat them. When you wash berries before storing them, excess moisture leads to mold growth.
Here is where you may wonder, “Does one bad strawberry ruin the whole bunch?” Dr. Ben Chapman, N.C. State Professor and Food Safety Extension Specialist, says one moldy berry isn’t risky but he recommends quickly removing the moldy fruit and taking a look at the surrounding berries.
If one berry is molded, mold spores may have traveled throughout the entire batch. He recommends washing the remaining berries and eating them as soon as possible.
When washing fresh produce, it is important not to use soap, detergent or bleach. These products can get trapped in the produce’s pores and you’ll unintentionally ingest the products.
Instead, just rinse under cold running water. Don’t allow berries to set in the water as they will lose color and flavor.
I’ve heard many people say that they use a vinegar wash to help keep berries fresh longer. According to Colorado State University Extension, adding vinegar to the wash water (1/4 cup distilled white vinegar per one cup of water), followed by a clean water rinse, has been shown to reduce bacteria that can cause spoilage, but may affect texture and taste.
After rinsing, be sure to blot dry with paper towels to remove excess moisture. In terms of if you should purchase fruit rinse products for safety, the answer is no. Running produce under cool water, applying some friction to remove soil, is the best practice- and the cheapest! According to Dr. Chapman, in research trials comparing running water to various products, the fancy products were no more effective than running water.
Unfortunately, the weather conditions we’ve been having is not ideal for growing strawberries. The word on the farm is that the season will not be extended as in previous years, so you’ll want to go ahead and preserve strawberries for later in the year.
How should you do that? You can easily make strawberry freezer jam, home-canned strawberry jam, or freeze strawberries. To freeze, arrange washed, capped berries on a tray to freeze.
Once frozen, add to a freezer-safe container to store. For additional methods for freezing strawberries, visit the National Center for Home Food Preservation website.
Finally, if you are planning to purchase fresh berries for specific recipes, you may be interested in conversion information. Due to the many variables, such as moisture content, size and variety, it can be tricky. There are typically about 1 ½ pounds of berries to every quart, and one quart of berries equals approximately 3 ¾ to 4 cups of hulled, whole berries.
To find strawberry farms near you, visit jocogrows.org or download the NC Farms App.
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By Cassidy Hobbs Hall