Who doesn’t love fresh berries? Except when those berries start growing fuzz within 24 hours of bringing them home.
Why do berries go bad so fast? It comes down to moisture… and mold. Berries tend to be quite porous, water-rich and delicately skinned, meaning they soak up excess moisture in their environment very easily. They also pretty much all carry mold spores, which grow rapidly when moisture is plentiful.
So, what can we do about it? How can we keep berries from going moldy almost immediately?
Vinegar kills mold spores. But straight vinegar will make your berries taste… gross. Make a solution of 3 parts cold water to 1 part white vinegar and soak berries for a full minute, gently swishing them around a few times. Drain them, then gently rinse with cold water.
After rinsing, lay them out on a clean kitchen towel until they dry completely (remember, moisture equals mold!), then store them in the refrigerator.
If you don’t have time for a vinegar soak, put your berries directly in the fridge, in the packaging they came in. Don’t rinse them beforehand as adding more moisture will just encourage any mold spores to grow even faster. Rinse only the ones you want, immediately before eating.
Airflow is important for storing berries. They come in containers with holes and moisture-absorbing pads for a reason. That’s why storing them in their store packaging is important if you aren’t soaking them first.
If you’ve done a vinegar soak, store them in a small colander or other vented container and line the bottom with a paper towel or clean cloth to absorb excess moisture.
Isn’t the whole fridge a cold spot? Almost all fridges actually have areas that are colder than others - usually the areas closest to the fan vent. You may know your cold spots simply from trial and error, or you can buy a fridge thermometer to test out the different spots.
Once you know your cold spots, keep berries away from them! Berries are delicate and prone to freezing. Cold spots are best for things like leftovers that need colder temperatures to keep longer. Not berries.
Even if you don’t have time for a vinegar soak, do a quick check of your newly purchased berries. A slightly moldy or mushy berry can often be hiding in the middle, usually on the bottom. Get it out of there! Just as “one bad apple spoils the bunch”, one moldy or mushy berry can speed up the moldiness of the rest.
Obviously discard the moldy ones, but soft or mushy ones can be washed and stored in the freezer for later smoothies or baking. If you buy berries often, keep a container in your freezer for collecting these rogue berries until you have enough for muffins, a warm cobbler or a yummy smoothie.
If you buy berries to eat fresh, you can forget this tip. But, if you buy them for baking, smoothies or to add to yogurt or pancakes, frozen berries are perfect! Obviously they keep longer than fresh berries and you can often get them cheaper year round.
If you like adding berries to plain yogurt to take to work, frozen berries have the bonus of keeping your yogurt colder for longer!
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