Does This Surprising Technique Keep Strawberries Fresher for Longer?

published Jul 15, 2015
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(Image credit: Kelli Foster)

We’ve talked about the best ways to store strawberries, and tips for making them last as long as possible, but what if there was an even better way?

I came across a surprising tip from food scientist Harold McGee, with a technique I never would have guessed, and I had to put it to the test. Here are the results.

The Original Tip

The original tip, from Harold McGee, explains that a hot water bath, or thermotherapy, will slow spoilage and extend the shelf life of strawberries. In other words, briefly heating strawberries in a pot of water over low heat could actually make them last longer.

According to McGee’s findings, hot water treatments have proven to suppress mold growth on berries. He tested this method with various water temperatures and heating the berries for different amounts of time, ultimately deciding that 30 seconds in 125°F water was what worked the best.

Read the Original Tip: Prolonging the Life of Berries via The New York Times

(Image credit: Kelli Foster)

The Testing Method

I prepared two batches of strawberries. Neither contained berries with any mold or soft spots, although I did purposely choose strawberries that looked to be older. The first batch was stored, unwashed, in a paper towel-lined container. The lid was partially closed, and the container was kept in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator.

The second batch of strawberries was treated with heat, following Harold McGee’s process. I filled a saucepan with water, and heated it over a low flame until the water temperature reached 125 degrees. Then I placed the strawberries in the water for exactly 30 seconds. I removed them from the water, dried each one thoroughly, and allowed them to cool before storing them in a paper towel-lined container with a partially closed lid. Similar to the first batch, I placed the container in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator.

I checked the berries on a daily basis, and removed them after five days.

(Image credit: Kelli Foster)

The Results

There were no changes in the berries over the first couple days, but the batch not treated with heat was first to show signs of spoilage.

While both batches of strawberries developed mold, there was clearly one that developed more than the other. The strawberries that were briefly placed in the hot water (pictured above) developed much less mold than the strawberries that were not treated at all. There were also three berries in the heat-treated batch that did not have any visible mold, versus one berry in the other batch.

Verdict: This is a mind-blowing tip!

Final Notes

I go through strawberries at an alarmingly fast rate, so it’s rare that they’re in my refrigerator long enough to spoil or get moldy. But if I did plan to keep them for more than a few days, this extra step of thermotherapy doesn’t add much more time and definitely seems worth it.