You've scored some beautiful local strawberries and toted them home with great care. You've rinsed a few off and eaten them immediately, but what to do with the rest of them? Strawberries can go from gorgeous to moldy mush in the blink of an eye, especially when not stored correctly. These simple tips for storing strawberries under optimum conditions guarantee the best flavor and the least waste:
When to Wash Them
Don't you dare 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.
If you bring a haul of strawberries home and want them to be available for snacking, far better to teach yourself and your 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 step three.
Storing in Paper Towels
Line a shallow bowl or rimmed plate with several layers of paper towels or a clean kitchen towel, place the unwashed strawberries in more or less 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. The closer you can create this dry (the paper towels soaks up excess moisture) and un-pressed (single layer) situation, the better.
Again, don't wash them until you're going to use them!
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.
Seriously, plenty of bakers actually prefer frozen berries to fresh ones, saying they hold their shape better and ooze their juices into batter and doughs a bit less.
And the good news is, you don't need scads of berries to freeze them. Whenever you have strawberries about to be not at their best—usually just a few stragglers in a quart—you can hull them and pop them in a bag in the freezer kept in the freezer for just such berries. By the end of strawberry season, you'll likely have enough of these stragglers to make jam or, if a jam isn't your thing, you'll have plenty of ripe, ready-to-whirl strawberries around for a few smoothies!