When strawberries are in season, it's hard to resist taking home a pint of red, juicy fruit to eat immediately. But what's the best way to store cut strawberries? Washed and sliced strawberries should be stored, covered, in the fridge and it's best to use them as soon as possible to avoid spoilage.
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Best Way to Store Cut Strawberries
A publication from Colorado State University — as well as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) — states that perishable produce should be stored in the refrigerator at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit and the optimum humidity for berry storage should stay between 90 to 95 percent.
Uncut fruit should be kept in the crisper drawer in the refrigerator preferably in a closed plastic container or in a partially opened plastic bag. Unwashed strawberries can be kept in the fridge for not more than seven days, although you'll probably want to eat them within a few days.
If you plan to eat your strawberries the day you bring them home, you may leave them on the counter until you're ready to consume them. Wash the strawberries in a colander under running water then gently pat dry. Strawberries should not be washed until just before eating or preparing, as water will add moisture and lead to berry spoilage.
Wash your hands, cutting surface and knife before and after preparing the strawberries. Cut or sliced strawberries should be covered and kept in the fridge if they are not eaten within two hours of preparation. This holds true if you cut up strawberries with sugar — for example, if you're cutting strawberries for strawberry shortcake or simply wish to have sliced strawberries on hand.
Food Safety Concerns
According to the FDA, when fresh produce is cut it increases the risk of bacterial growth and contamination by breaking the natural exterior barrier of the fruit or vegetable. The release of plant cellular fluids when produce is chopped or shredded provides a nutritive medium in which pathogens, if present, can survive or grow.
The FDA advises following certain guidelines when preparing fresh produce at home, including strawberries. First, choose produce that isn't bruised or damaged, and make sure that precut items — examples include bags of lettuce or watermelon slices — are either refrigerated or on ice both in the store and at home. When preparing fresh produce, such as cutting strawberries for fruit trays, make sure to
- Wash your hands for 20 seconds with warm water and soap before and after preparing fresh produce.
- Cut away any damaged or bruised areas before preparing or eating.
- Rinse produce prior to peeling it, so dirt and bacteria aren't transferred from the knife onto the fruit or vegetable.
- Gently rub produce while holding it under plain running water — you don't need to use soap or a produce wash.
- Scrub firm produce, such as melons or cucumbers, with a clean vegetable brush.
- Dry produce with a clean cloth or paper towel.
If you're concerned about storing cut strawberries safely, you may wish to freeze them. Wash the strawberries according to the method described above and remove the caps. Place the strawberries in a plastic bag or canning jar, seal tightly and place in the freezer for up to one year. You could also try mixing in 2/3 cup of granulated sugar to your sliced strawberries, with the theory that the sugar pack preserves flavor, according to the PennState Extension.
- Food and Drug Administration: "Guidance for Industry: Guide to Minimize Microbial Food Safety Hazards of Fresh-Cut Fruits and Vegetables"
- Food and Drug Administration: "7 Tips for Cleaning Fruits, Vegetables"
- Colorado State University: "Strawberries"
- PennState Extension: "Let's Preserve: Strawberries"
- USDA: Commodity Food Fact Sheet for Schools & Child Nutrition Institutions, Strawberries