Now that you gathered your weight in berries at the U-pick, splurged on that pricey pint at the farmers market, or reaped the bounty of your backyard garden, it's time to care for those sweet gems.
From washing to storage, these are the keys to helping your berries stick around for as long as possible.
1. Don't let one bad berry ruin the bunch.
Even with the closest inspection, it's easy to miss a bad berry or two hiding out in the middle of the container. As soon as you notice any moldy or spoiled berries, be sure to toss them immediately. Mold spreads easily, so it's best to remove any spoiled berries before they ruin the rest of the bunch.
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2. Know when to wash which berry.
When to wash berries all depends on the variety you have handy. Most can be washed right away, although it's crucial that they be thoroughly dried. There are some exceptions, like raspberries, which benefit from not being washed until just before they're consumed.
Learn When to Wash: 3 Berries You Should Wash Right Away (And 3 You Never Should)
3. Embrace heat and vinegar.
When washing berries, consider using a hot water bath or a solution of vinegar and water (one cup of vinegar for every three cups of water), and then rinsing under cool water. Both methods delay spoilage and extend the shelf life of berries.
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4. Store berries in the right spot.
As for where those berries should live, it depends on a few factors, the most important of which is how long you think they'll be around for. Plan to eat them within a day? Go ahead and leave them on the counter. Any longer than that and they deserve a spot in the refrigerator.
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5. Consider freezing your berries.
Whether you enjoy them now or six months from now, nothing beats fresh berries. However, if you've got a giant haul of berries on your hands, the best place for some of them just might be the freezer.
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6. Don't forget the overripe fruit.
Just because those once-fresh berries have taken a turn for overripe pastures, it doesn't mean it's time to get rid of them. There's more life in those wrinkled berries, so think twice before you toss them.
The absolute best way to store overripe berries is in the freezer. That is, after puréeing them, pouring into an ice cube tray, and freezing to make sweet berry cubes.
7. Know which berries come with built-in freshness protection.
Have you ever noticed that dull, waxy film that coats blueberries? No, it's not pesticides or residue — it's called bloom, which is a natural coating produced by the berries that acts as a protective shield against insects and bacteria. Bloom is a sign of berry freshness; think of it as nature's preservative!
Learn More About Bloom: What's That Waxy Coating on Blueberries?