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.
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.
The tiny dimples in a strawberry that contain the seeds also trap dirt and dust. If the strawberries are particularly dirty, rub the dirt off gently with your fingers as you rinse them under cold running water. Do not submerge the strawberries in water. If you know you won't be going directly home after berry picking or shopping, pack a small cooler to keep the strawberries in during the trip.
At the supermarket, keep baskets or plastic containers of strawberries away from other produce and meats in your grocery cart. Once you get the strawberries home, store them away from raw meats and fish. Discard any berries that have come into contact with other perishable foods.
- Texas Cooperative Extension: Safe Handling of Fresh Strawberries
- University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources: Strawberries: Safe Methods to Store, Preserve, and Enjoy
- University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Cooperative Extension Service: Tips on Picking and Using Strawberries