Highly perishable, strawberries require refrigeration after picking. The low temperatures of the fridge slow bacterial growth and also prolong freshness. Out of the refrigerator, strawberries only last for a day or two. Once cut, the strawberries won't even last a few hours unrefrigerated. Whether you pick them from your garden or buy them, choose strawberries that are ripe -- bright red and glossy -- because they will stay fresher, longer.
What Fresh Looks Like
To maintain freshness and keep ripe strawberries looking bright and glossy, don't rinse the strawberries until you are ready to eat them. Wet strawberries spoil quickly. Discard -- do not store -- any strawberries that are mushy, dull or shriveled. If any strawberries are leaking juice, have white or green patches, show visible mold spots or brown top stems, throw them out.
The ideal temperature range for strawberry storage is between 32 and 36 degrees Fahrenheit. Most refrigerators are set to 40 F or lower. If your refrigerator is above 36 F, your strawberries still remain safe to eat, but may spoil sooner than those refrigerated at a lower temperature. Store strawberries, green stems intact, in a closed clamshell container or a partially opened plastic bag in the crisper drawer for up to seven days. Check them daily for any spoiled berries and eat them as soon as possible.
Before cutting strawberries, rinse them and remove the green stems with a clean knife. Once the strawberries are cut, air and moisture begin to cause the strawberries to deteriorate and you must store the strawberries in the refrigerator within two hours of cutting to slow bacterial growth. An airtight container or sealed plastic bag keeps cut strawberries fresh in the refrigerator for up to three days.
Keep strawberries for longer by freezing them. Freeze whole strawberries in airtight storage containers or plastic freezer bag for up to eight months. Place cut strawberries in an airtight container or plastic freezer bag and sprinkle with granulated sugar -- about a 1/4 cup of sugar for every 1/2 quart of berries. Sweetened, cut strawberries remain fresh in the freezer for up to four months before quality begins to decline.