Nothing says spring like a ripe strawberry, and from late May through June, supermarket produce bins and roadside stands spill over with the sweet, succulent gems. At other times of the year, strawberries come from areas with warm climates. Like all berries, strawberries can pick up unwanted bacterial passengers along their journey from field to table, but most can be eliminated by a thorough washing and drying. Storage time for strawberries depends on the quality of the fruit, how long it took to get them home from the pick-your-own site or the grocery store, and how quickly you are able to refrigerate or process them. Store freshly picked or recently purchased berries in their original containers in the refrigerator until you are ready to eat them. Clean them just before you are ready to use them, as washing shortens their storage life and promotes the growth of mold.
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Wash your hands well with soap and warm water and dry them on a clean towel or on paper towels before you handle the strawberries.
Make a solution of 1 teaspoon bleach and 1 quart of water to use to disinfect the colander, the working surface, the tray and the small knife. Rinse all the items in the solution, and dry them with paper towels.
Pick through the strawberries and remove and discard any damaged, diseased, unripe, soft or moldy fruit. Leave the caps on, and place the berries in the colander.
Hold the colander under the faucet and rinse the berries under a gentle stream of cold water. Move and shake the colander around to expose all surfaces of the berries to the water, or use the sink's spray attachment, if it has one.
Leave the colander in the sink to drain, and line a tray or platter with two thicknesses of paper towels. Pour the berries out of the colander onto the paper towels, spreading them out so they're not touching.
Pat the berries gently with more paper towels until they are dry.
Cut the caps off, before freezing, eating or using the strawberries.