How Keep Your Summer Berries Fresher Longer
Summer’s here and that means berries are popping up everywhere, as they’re right in season and always on sale at the grocery store. Yet, because they’re so delicate and it’s so darn hot outside, they can go bad if you don’t store them well or eat them in time.
Luckily, there are a few ways to extend the shelf life of those beautiful berries, so you can get the biggest bang for your buck and take advantage of one of summer’s finest produce.
Keep Them in the Fridge
First step—don’t let those berries wait around on the kitchen table for too long in the heat. “What works best for me is to put the berries straight into the fridge in the produce drawer (I usually keep one for fruits, one for veggies) as soon as possible,” says Elizabeth Ann Shaw, MS, RDN, CLT, CPT.
If they’re out too long without the chill, it could lead to mold or cause them to ripen too fast and become rotten before you’ve had a chance to eat them in your morning yogurt or bake a summery berry pie. Don’t let them stay out for more than a few hours, max.
Upon returning from the store, wash the berries under cool water in a colander before putting them in the fridge. Make sure they are extremely dry (you can pat them with paper towels) and place them in a sealable container that’s lined with dry paper towels. This will reduce moisture, so they last longer.
The good news—storing them this way keeps them at top quality for about 3-4 days, Shaw says. But sometimes you want to eat them longer, so if it’s been almost a week, they could need some saving. You can either freeze them or make a vinegar bath to keep eating them fresh.
A good way to keep berries fresher longer is by freezing them, which prolongs the shelf life and keeps nutrition intact. “I am a big fan of freezing produce, especially my berries! Doing so extends their life (I've had berries stored for up to 3 months!) and serves as an easy toss into a smoothie,” says Shaw.
Yet, don’t just pop 'em in the freezer without washing them—you want to cleanse them of anything that could lead to mold or bacteria. “You can transfer to a sealable bag once they are frozen if you need to save space, but I recommend freezing initially in a glass container to help prevent them from becoming smashed by other freezer items until they harden,” she says.
Try a Vinegar Bath
Plus, here’s a handy tip: if you’re not freezing berries to keep them fresher longer, but rather you prefer leaving them in the fridge, you can grab some vinegar and make a “vinegar bath” to cleanse those berries.
“A vinegar bath works by making the berries more acidic, which kills bacteria in the food that may cause spoilage and mold,” says Maggie Michalczyk, MS, RDN. What’s great about this technique is that you can give your berries a longer shelf life in your fridge through a simple cleaning, to prevent mold and that “squishy” texture.
Here’s what to do: Prepare a solution of 1 cup vinegar and 3 cups water. “Apple cider also has the same bacteria fighting properties,” she says, so it’s whichever you have on hand is fine. “Wash the berries in it and dry them really well,” she says, as this will get rid of excess moisture that can contribute to mold and bacteria.
You can also put them in a salad spinner, she suggests. “Don’t put them back in the same package you bought them in but rather in a sealable glass container lined with paper towels with the lid cracked open for the moisture to escape,” she says. This will help them last longer and have some room to breathe, while staying dry.
If All Else Fails…Make a Jam
If those berries do become a bit too ripe (which can surely happen!), try whipping up a summery jam that’s perfect for outdoor picnics and patio dining.
“Hands down my go-to is to put them in a jam! I'm a big fan of using chia seeds as a thickening agent, so will toss my extra loved berries in a pot with a little lemon juice, kosher salt and a little sugar to make the base for the jam,” says Shaw. “Once cooled, I'll add in some chia seeds and let it thicken in the fridge,” she says. It works with any berry you like—black, blue, or red.