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Ingredients

How to Buy, Wash, Store, and Freeze Fresh Berries

We tell you everything you need to know.
By Published June 9, 2022

While all kinds of berries are in season throughout the year in different regions, they always seem sweetest and juiciest during the summer. Here’s what you need to know to buy, wash, store, and preserve the summer's bounty of nature’s candy. 

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Shopping for Berries

When searching for the best berries, look for colorful, sturdy, and unbruised fruits. 

Raspberries are composed of little spheres called drupelets and are hollow in the center, making them inherently fragile and easily damaged. 

Like raspberries, blackberries are also composed of drupelets, but unlike raspberries, the torus (or stem) stays within the berry when you pick a blackberry, giving you a dense, sturdy berry. Each blackberry drupelet has a seed, and in larger specimens, these seeds can be a bit tough, so we recommend buying small or medium blackberries when you can. 

For strawberries, look for smaller berries for maximum flavor. Generally speaking, the flavor of smaller berries is superior to that of larger berries because the latter contain a higher proportion of water. 

When searching for blueberries, the tiny wild blueberries are generally sweeter and more intensely flavored (and more expensive) than the larger berries common in supermarkets, but you can use both kinds interchangeably.

How to Wash Berries 

When washing berries, being gentle is key. Raspberries are inherently fragile, so it’s best to wash them before you use them to minimize the breakage and spoilage when the berries sit for an extended period with water inside them. 

Before serving, fill a bowl with cool water and then gently submerge whole berries in the water for about 30 seconds. 

How to Dry Your Berries

Damp berries will turn mushy faster than dry berries. Using your hands or a slotted spoon, transfer the 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. 

How to Extend the Life of Your Berries

As well as keeping your washed berries dry, you can dunk your berries 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 Store Berries

Store washed berries in a loosely covered paper towel-lined container or the original packaging at the front of the fridge. Berries typically don’t stay in peak condition for long, so consuming them within a day or two of purchase is best. Strawberries and blueberries can last in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, while the more delicate raspberries and blackberries will last for only a few days in the fridge. 

How to Freeze Berries 

Blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries can be frozen whole. Gently wash and dry whole berries. For quick use of strawberries, from freezer to cooking, simply wash and remove their hull; freeze small berries whole and larger berries halved or quartered. Then transfer them to a rimmed baking sheet (or a plate) and freeze them in a  single layer. Once frozen, the berries can be bagged or placed in an airtight storage container and frozen for up to three months. 

When Good Berries Go Bad 

If your berries are softening and starting to bruise, prevent food waste by either freezing them whole or doing what restaurants do: Use a food processor to buzz them into a puree and use it for sauces or freeze the puree to have a taste of summer at the ready when you need it. Pureed fresh berries can be whisked into a vinaigrette, frozen into a granita, cooked down into a thick syrup for spooning over ice cream, or stirred into yogurt.