Do Strawberries Need to be Refrigerated?

Do Strawberries Need to be Refrigerated?

There is almost nothing better than some fresh, ripe strawberries. They are so simple but so versatile, and when they are in season and on sale, sometimes we can get a little carried away. That’s alright, too many strawberries isn’t a problem, it’s a learning experience. Now that you’re home, and you are looking at a kitchen table covered in strawberry pints, you might be wondering if you are in too deep. Not at all.

Do strawberries need to be refrigerated? Yes, strawberries should be refrigerated unless they are consumed on the same day of purchase. Storing strawberries with plenty of airflow can last between 3-7 days in the fridge.

We’re going to look at how to store those delicious red gems in the best ways possible, so you can make the most of your newly acquired berry treasure. Storage is crucial for strawberries since they can go from plump and beautiful to mushy, funky lumps incredibly quickly. You need to keep them at the right temperature, in the right environment, with the right moisture level, or you are risking rapid spoilage. 

We’ll give you the keys to the most effective strawberry storage, as well as some long terms tips if you want to try to bring your late-season bounty into the off-season.

How to Properly Store Strawberries in the Fridge

So we’ve mentioned that to store best, strawberries should be kept in the fridge, but that there is a right and wrong way to do that. Most people will get home, toss the plastic containers in the fridge, and be done with it. Best of luck to those berries, but that’s not how we do it, we’re in it for freshness. Here are the best ways to store your strawberries for as long as possible while still tasting great.

Buy Strawberries with Storage in Mind

If you are going to be using them tonight, of course, you want some that are deep red, and just perfectly firm in their ripeness. But if you want some now, some later, and some way later, you need to put a little more thought into your buying. If you have already bought, you can certainly sort, and it will help you maintain better storage.

Firmer, slighting lighter or paler strawberries will be just shy of ripening. These are the best berries to get when you are buying specifically to store them. Those end-of-summer varieties can be picked a little early, and if stored properly can keep you in strawberries through the winter.

If you’re a voracious strawberry enthusiast and won’t need to worry about long term storage, containers, where the majority are closer to ripe, will be just fine. Generally, no matter what state you buy them in, if you won’t use them within a few days, you should consider freezing them. To retain as much freshness as possible.

Don’t Store Your Strawberries with Other Fruits and Vegetables

Strawberries, like many other fruits and berries, produce large quantities of and are very sensitive to, ethylene gas. Ethylene is produced as the strawberry ripens, and the ripening quickens and progresses to spoilage rapidly as the ethylene gas builds up.

Since they are sensitive to and make large amounts of ethylene, strawberries should not be stored near other fruit or vegetables that are highly sensitive to ethylene. Sensitive fruits include pears, apples, other berries, and peaches. Vegetables that may spoil quickly near ripening strawberries include asparagus, potatoes, carrots, and brassicas like cauliflower and broccoli.

Store Strawberries in the Fridge

So you know you can’t just throw the plastic cartons in the fridge and cross your fingers that they’ll be ok tomorrow when you want them, but how do you get the most out of storing strawberries? 

First of all, you need to stop washing your strawberries when you get them home, this is probably the biggest disservice you are doing to your strawberries. In fact, if you are not going to eat them that day, you should store them in paper towels in a shallow bowl or high-rimmed plate. Keep them to a single layer thick, and cover them with a paper towel or kitchen towel before you place them in the fridge overnight. 

Keep the Moisture Just Right

People often wash their strawberries as soon as they get them home, and they figure that once they are all clean, people will be more apt to eat them before they go bad. While this is certainly a noble sentiment, strawberries are very absorbent and they act like tiny red sponges that hold all that water overnight and get all soft and gross in the meantime. 

Keeping your strawberries stored in a single layer on paper towels, with plenty of airflow is the perfect way to store them for several days before you may have to decide how to use them up. This can help them keep fresh for anywhere from 3-7 days depending on fridge conditions. Make sure to keep them above freezing as well, since frost and freezing damage will also quickly cause them to spoil.

Handle With Care

Berries are often treated with a bit more recklessness than other soft fruits, but damaging the body of a berry can cause the same accelerated spoilage that can happen in other fruits. Just like in apples, peaches, pears, and others, damaging the surface of the fruit by bruising causes a stress response of more ethylene gas, which quickens ripening and eventual spoilage.

As you are getting your strawberries ready for storage, you may find it works to your advantage to separate the berries into some simple storage categories. Soft or ripe strawberries can be stored on the counter and eaten that day. Slightly bruised or damaged berries can be prepped for either short term storage in the fridge or long-term storage with other damaged strawberries.

Berries that are underripe or otherwise not yet ready for consumption would be the best candidates for freezing, since they will be in the best condition, and will allow the longest possible storage and the fullest possible ripening cycle once removed from cold storage.

How to Store Strawberries For Longer Periods

If you want to get your strawberries ready for the long-haul of freezer storage, all you will need to get started is a baking sheet, freezer bags or freezer-safe food storage containers, and of course your berries and your freezer. It will also help if your baking sheet or sheets had a lip around them, it helps reduce accidents.

Make sure the berries are in good condition. There should be no under ripe, overripe, or damaged berries, as well as no hulls. Rinse the strawberries in cool water and dry them extremely thoroughly. Line your baking sheet with plastic wrap, parchment paper, or wax paper, and add the berries to the sheet in a single layer and not touching each other.

Place the sheet in the freezer for several hours or until frozen solid, 3 to 5 hours is often sufficient for this. Try not to leave them in the freezer for longer than needed, because it will begin to affect their taste. Once frozen, transfer to freezer bags or food containers. These can then be moved to your freezer of choice.

If you are using bags, ensure that you press as much air out as possible, and if using freezer-safe plastic food containers, just make sure you fill them as much as possible without packing down the strawberries and making them stick to each other. Once they are in their long-term storage, they should last for about 6 months, or up to a full year if stored in a deep freezer with a very limited temperature variation.