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My Berries Are Going Bad. Now What?

Your fruit doesn’t have to be picture-perfect to shine in these recipes.
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Published Aug. 10, 2023.

The taste of summer berry desserts is incomparable, but thin skins and high moisture content make berries’ shelf life quite finite.

Some desserts require picture-perfect berries. Otherwise, you’d have a sad-looking (but still very tasty) Fresh Fruit Tart. And lemon posset garnished with wrinkly blueberries or Chocolate-Raspberry Torte ringed with mushy raspberries just doesn’t have the same visual appeal.

But there are still so many great uses for berries that look past their prime. They might not have the perfect looks, but they have all the same flavor.

Here are some of our favorite ways to use up those berries, plus a few tips to help them last longer.

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How to Make Fresh Berries Last Longer

Even when properly stored in a sealed container between paper towels near the front of the fridge (which tends to be warmer), these delicate beauties are prone to injury and break down quickly. Unless you plan to freeze them, count on a maximum of 5 days for the marginally sturdier blueberries and strawberries, but raspberries will only last a few days.

Damp berries will turn mushy faster than dry berries, so it’s important to dry them thoroughly—but gently—after washing. We’ve found the best way to do this is to transfer the just-washed berries to a rimmed baking sheet or a plate lined with clean dish towels and blot the berries dry. Sturdier berries, such as strawberries, can be spun dry in a paper towel–lined salad spinner.

Another way to extend your berries’ shelf life is to dunk them in a bowl with 3 cups of water and 1 cup of distilled white vinegar right when you get home from the store (to prevent bacteria and mold growth) and rinse them in another bowl of cool water.

How to Use Your Imperfect (but Still Delicious) Berries

So if your berries are starting to turn, what can you do? Let them shine as the sweeter, slightly wrinklier treasures they are. 

Here are 10 ways to use up those berries that don’t require them to be picture-perfect. 

1. If you don’t have the tools or time to preserve your berries, make No-Commitment Strawberry Jam. This recipe requires a mere 40 minutes of active cooking for a sweet, small batch of jam.

2. Once you’re done macerating, mashing, and cooking those strawberries for an aptly named Eton Mess, a few wrinkles here and there won’t matter.

3. Make a showstopping Summer Berry Trifle. The majority of the berries are cooked, so you need only reserve a few of the best looking as a garnish. (You can also make Mini Cookie and Berry Trifles as a fun family activity.)

Watch Bridget and Elle make our Berry Granita recipe.

4. With a blender and a fork, you can make the mostly hands-off frozen Italian dessert, Berry Granita. (Watch the video above for step-by-step instructions.)

5. On the healthier side of frozen treats, a Very Berry Smoothie is a great breakfast option or anytime snack.

6. With creamy, subtly crunchy Berry Fool, no one will know your berries aren’t picture-perfect.

7 & 8. You may not have heard of the Appalachian classic Lazy Strawberry Sonker, but it's time to get familiar. Its light, crisp crust and thickly stewed berries is not quite a pie and not quite a cobbler.

(It comes in blueberry too.)

9. In a Chai Blackberry Pie, warm spices benefit from the bold flavor of ultraripe blackberries.

10. This Magic Strawberry Ice Cream gets its name from a secret ingredient: whipped cream.

Watch Bridget and Elle show you how to make a blackberry betty.

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