Fresh strawberries are a special treat, especially when in season, and are best when eaten at their prime. Unfortunately, strawberries can go from gorgeous to moldy mush in the blink of an eye, especially when not stored correctly. Following some simple tips for washing and storing strawberries will guarantee the best flavor and the least waste.
It is crucial that you don't wash the strawberries until you're ready to eat them or use them. Strawberries are akin to small red sponges, ready to soak up all the water they can come into contact with. And once they've soaked up that water, they are quick to turn to mush and rot away, even if they've been thoroughly patted dry on the outside.
It may seem like a good idea to wash all of the berries and leave for the family to snack on as they wish, but unless the entire lot is eaten immediately, you'll end up having to toss out the rest. Remind the family to give each portion a quick rinse as they're going to be eaten; they'll taste better and last longer.
Leaving Them Out
If you plan on eating or cooking with the berries within a day and it's not too terribly hot in your kitchen, you can leave the strawberries out at room temperature. Put them in a pretty bowl within easy eyesight so people remember to grab a few, give them a rinse, and eat them up.
For overnight storage, however, you're better off refrigerating them, in which case you'll need to store them properly.
Storing in Paper Towels
When storing strawberries in the fridge, the goal is to prevent the strawberries from retaining any excess moisture, and using paper towels is a good way to do this. Line a shallow bowl or rimmed plate with several layers of paper towels or a clean kitchen towel. Place the unwashed strawberries in a single layer on the towels, cover, and chill the berries until you're ready to use them. Stored this way, very fresh strawberries will keep for several days.
For Longer Storage
If you're not planning on using the strawberries within a few days, you're better off freezing them than trying to keep them all fresh and unblemished. Frozen strawberries are perfect for whirling in smoothies, turning into sauces, or baking up in pies, tarts, cakes, and other treats. Many bakers actually prefer frozen berries to fresh ones, claiming they hold their shape better and ooze their juices into batter and doughs a bit less.
Whenever you have strawberries on the verge of not being at their best, you can hull them, pop them in a zip-top bag, and place in the freezer. By the end of strawberry season, you'll likely have enough to make jam or a few smoothies.