How do you store strawberries after you pick them?

Storing strawberries properly after picking them is crucial for maintaining quality and freshness. There are a few key things to keep in mind when storing freshly picked strawberries:

Keep Them Cool

Strawberries should be kept refrigerated as soon as possible after picking. The ideal storage temperature for strawberries is around 32-36°F. At this temperature range, the cold helps slow down mold growth and moisture loss. Leaving strawberries at room temperature for too long will cause them to deteriorate faster.

Use The Right Container

The container you store the strawberries in will impact their shelf life. Some good options include:

  • Clamshell containers – These ventilated plastic containers are a good commercial option for storing multiple strawberries.
  • Baskets or bowls – For home storage, placing strawberries loosely in a shallow container works well.
  • Zipper bags – Sealable plastic bags help keep strawberries from getting crushed while also preventing moisture loss.

Avoid using materials like aluminum foil or paper towels that can trap moisture and accelerate spoilage. Always use clean, dry containers to prevent mold growth.

Don’t Wash Before Storing

It may be tempting to wash strawberries as soon as you get them home from picking. However, leaving them unwashed initially can help extend their shelf life. The natural protective coating on strawberries helps lock in moisture and freshness. Washing them removes this coating and causes the berries to spoil faster.

Remove Damaged Berries

Inspect your freshly picked strawberries and remove any that are damaged, mushy or moldy. These can accelerate spoilage of the healthy berries around them. Keep only the most pristine strawberries to store.

Use Promptly For Best Quality

For maximum freshness and flavor, try to use or preserve your homegrown strawberries within 2-3 days of picking. The sooner you use them, the better the taste and texture will be.

Freezing for Long-Term Storage

If you won’t be able to use fresh-picked strawberries within a few days, consider freezing them. This stops the ripening process and allows strawberries to be stored for up to 12 months. To freeze:

  1. Leave berries whole or slice if desired. Discard any damaged/overripe ones.
  2. Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet and freeze solid.
  3. Transfer to freezer bags or containers, removing as much air as possible.
  4. Label with the date and return to the freezer immediately.

Frozen strawberries are ideal for smoothies, baking, jams and other cooked dishes. Thaw in the refrigerator before using.

Canning for Room Temperature Storage

Preserving strawberries using a boiling water canner allows you to store them at room temperature for up to a year. The canning process kills mold, yeast and enzymes that cause spoilage. Follow these general steps:

  1. Wash jars, lids and bands. Heat to sterilize if using Mason jars.
  2. Use ripe, fresh berries. Leave whole or slice.
  3. Pack into jars, leaving 1⁄2 inch headspace. Add syrup, juice or water if needed.
  4. Process filled jars in a canner for the appropriate time based on your altitude.
  5. After cooling, check seals are tight. Label and store in a cool, dark place.

For detailed canning instructions, consult a trusted source like the National Center for Home Food Preservation. Take proper safety precautions when canning.

Drying for Long-Term Room Temperature Storage

Dehydrating or drying strawberries allows them to be stored for 6-12 months at room temperature. Dried berries maintain their sweet flavor and can be used in a variety of ways. To dry strawberries:

  • Start with very ripe, blemish-free berries.
  • Leave whole or slice into halves or quarters.
  • Arrange in a single layer on dehydrator trays or baking sheets.
  • Dehydrate at around 135°F for 6-10 hours.
  • Berries are done when leathery and dry to the touch.
  • Cool, then pack into airtight containers. Keep in a cool, dark place.

Rehydrate dried strawberries in water, juice or other liquids before eating or adding to recipes.

Preserve as Jam

Turning freshly picked strawberries into jam is a time-honored way to preserve them for future use. Strawberry jam is made by cooking mashed berries with sugar and an acid like lemon juice. The sugar and acid help form a gel that prevents mold growth. To make basic strawberry jam:

  1. Start with around 4 cups crushed strawberries and 4 cups of sugar.
  2. Add 2 Tbsp lemon juice and cook over medium heat until thickened, stirring frequently.
  3. Transfer hot jam to sterilized jars, leaving 1⁄4 inch headspace.
  4. Wipe rims, apply lids and process in a canner for 10 minutes.

Consult a trusted canning guide for proper jam making procedures and acidity levels. Refrigerate after opening and use within 3-4 weeks.

Preserve as Jelly

Making jelly with fresh strawberries uses just the extracted fruit juice, producing a clear spread. It involves an extra straining step:

  1. Crush strawberries and cook until softened.
  2. Drain through a jelly bag or cheesecloth.
  3. Measure the strained juice and cook with an equal amount of sugar.
  4. Boil rapidly until it reaches the jelling point, around 220°F.
  5. Ladle into sterilized jars, process in a canner for 10 minutes.

Always use tested jelly recipes and proper canning methods. Refrigerate jelly after opening and enjoy within 4-6 weeks.

Other Tips

Here are some other miscellaneous tips for storing fresh strawberries:

  • Don’t wash until right before eating or cooking. Dry thoroughly after washing.
  • Consume within 3 days of refrigerating for best quality.
  • Sort through fruit and remove any moldy or damaged berries daily.
  • Store berries in a crisper drawer or front of the fridge where it’s coldest.
  • Lay berries in a single layer and avoid over-stacking containers.
  • Don’t refrigerate for more than 5-7 days total.

What Not to Do

Avoid these common mistakes when storing freshly picked strawberries:

  • Leaving them out at room temperature for too long.
  • Washing before refrigerating.
  • Using containers that crush or damage them.
  • Storing near ethylene-producing fruits like apples.
  • Letting moldy/rotten berries remain in the container.
  • Stacking too many berries or overfilling containers.

Signs of Spoilage

Watch for these signs that your stored strawberries are past their prime or spoiled:

  • Visible mold growth – white or fuzzy patches.
  • Wrinkly, dried out appearance.
  • Unpleasant “fermented” odor.
  • Soft, mushy or leaking texture.
  • Dark or discolored juices leaking out.
  • Unnaturally pale or brown color.

Discard any strawberries showing these signs of spoilage promptly to prevent cross-contamination.

Uses for Stored Strawberries

Once properly stored, strawberries can be used in many ways either fresh or preserved. Here are some ideas:

  • Fresh fruit salads or smoothies
  • Topping for yogurt, oatmeal or cereal
  • Pancakes, waffles or crepes
  • Milkshakes or ice cream
  • Cakes, pies, muffins, scones
  • Preserves like jam, jelly or fruit spread
  • Drinks like strawberry lemonade
  • Sauces for desserts
  • Frozen into berries or pureed for smoothies

Nutrition Facts

Strawberries are nutritious whether enjoyed fresh or preserved. Here are some of the main nutrients found in 1 cup of raw strawberries (about 8 medium berries):

Nutrient Amount
Calories 49
Fiber 3 g
Vitamin C 98.6 mg
Manganese 0.6 mg

Strawberries also contain vitamin K, potassium, folate and antioxidants. The fiber, vitamins and phytochemicals make them a healthy addition to the diet either fresh or preserved.

Do Strawberries Continue Ripening After Picking?

No, strawberries do not get sweeter or more ripe once removed from the plant. They reach their peak ripeness on the bush and should be picked when fully red and juicy. After picking, refrigeration slows the ripening process and enzymes begin breaking down the fruit.

What Causes Moldy Berries?

Mold growth on stored strawberries is caused by spoilage microorganisms like botrytis cinerea gray mold. Factors that contribute to mold include:

  • Warm temperatures
  • Moisture condensation
  • Crushing or bruising
  • Extended storage periods
  • Contamination from rotten berries

Proper post-harvest cooling, moisture control and storage helps prevent mold formation.

Should You Refrigerate Strawberries in the Garden?

Only if you plan to harvest and store them. Strawberries continue ripening best on the plant at warm outdoor temperatures. Refrigerating berries still on the bush stops the ripening process. Pick strawberries once fully red and ripe. Then promptly refrigerate the harvested berries within 2 hours to maintain freshness.

Can You Freeze Strawberries in Their Containers?

It’s best not to freeze strawberries in their original container if possible. The rigid sides can damage berries as they expand during freezing. Allowing air space around frozen berries also helps maintain quality. Spread in a single layer on a pan until hard, then transfer to freezer bags or containers.

Should Strawberries Touch When Freezing?

Avoid having strawberries touch or overlap when laying them out to freeze initially. Leaving space allows air to circulate and prevent them from freezing into a solid clump. Once hard frozen, they can be packed together in freezer containers or bags for storage.

What are Signs Strawberries Have Gone Bad?

Look for these signs strawberries have spoiled and should be discarded:

  • Moldy patches
  • Wrinkled skin
  • Dried out appearance
  • Unusual softness or mushiness
  • Off odors
  • Bitter, fermented taste

Trust your senses – strawberries that smell or taste unpleasant should not be eaten. When in doubt, throw it out.

Do Pickled Strawberries Need Refrigeration?

Yes, any pickled strawberries or relishes need refrigeration for safe storage. The vinegar helps prevent bacteria growth but refrigeration is still required. Transfer the pickled strawberries to clean jars or containers, cover and store in the fridge. Consume within 3-6 months for best quality and safety.


Storing freshly picked strawberries properly is key to preserving freshness and preventing waste. Quickly refrigerate unwashed berries, use suitable ventilated containers, and avoid crushing or over stacking. Consume within 2-3 days for peak flavor and texture. Freezing lets you enjoy strawberries for about one year while canning, drying, jamming or pickling allow storage at room temperature. Follow proper guidelines to safely preserve strawberries and add their sweetness to meals and treats all year round.

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