Strawberries are one of the best fruits out there and nothing can change our minds! Strawberries are seasonal ingredients so usually they aren’t available during the whole year.
However, thanks to modern technology and international import, you can now get strawberries throughout virtually the entire year – amazing isn’t it!
The sad part about this is that sometimes (most of the time) the quality of the strawberries imported isn’t as great by the time you buy them. But, it’s still so tempting to buy some, and more often than not, you convince yourself that they’re really not that far gone.
Can strawberries even go bad? Fresh fruit can definitely go bad, especially berries. This is because of their exceptionally high sugar content. Bacteria thrive on sugar and therefore strawberries don’t stand a chance. Fresh strawberries will last up to a week in the refrigerator if stored properly.
If you want to know more about strawberries and their shelf life, this article is just for you! We will be discussing how long they last, common signs that they are spoiling, and different ways to store your strawberries to extend their shelf life.
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Can Strawberries Go Bad?
Strawberries are one of the most vulnerable fruits you can find. They are actually classified as “highly perishable”.
First, let’s look at the structure of a strawberry. Strawberries have very soft, juicy, and sweet flesh. They don’t have a thick peel or skin, only an extremely thin layer surrounding the flesh. This layer also contains tons of strawberry seeds all over its surface.
Strawberries, like most other fruits, consist of mostly water, however, the exception being that they have a much higher sugar content than most. Strawberries contain 0.17 oz. per 3.5 oz. portion (4.9g sugar per 100g).
Bacteria need three things to thrive; oxygen, temperature, and food.
Bacteria require food and moisture to reproduce and grow. Any form of sugar (carbohydrates), no matter how little, will provide bacteria a starting point to multiply and completely spoil the food. Adding moisture to the equation accelerates this process even more.
Strawberries, being extremely high in sugar and moisture, and having no peel to protect it from foreign objects, doesn’t stand a chance against bacteria.
Strawberries also carry natural mold spores inside their flesh which gives spores another head start.
The only thing that can be done to extend the shelf life is by proper storage.
How Long Do Strawberries Last?
Strawberries don’t have a very long shelf life. Upon purchasing they have already begun deteriorating extremely fast.
On average, fresh whole strawberries will only last a day or two at room temperature (68-72˚F / 20-22˚C).
By storing them in the refrigerator you immediately extend the shelf life to anywhere between 5-7 days. The optimum refrigerator temperature to store your strawberries should be around 40˚F / 4˚C. The higher the temperature, the faster they will deteriorate.
Once strawberries are cut they are exposed to even more oxygen and bacteria. They will start to wilt and bacteria will start to grow as they have easier access to the nutrients inside.
Cut strawberries will barely last a day at room temperature and when stored properly in the refrigerator, only a maximum of 3 days.
It’s not that these strawberries will visibly show bacteria on them first, but rather they will first lose their structural integrity and become very soft, almost mushy.
All these times are of course subject to when you actually bought them in the store and what their condition was at that time. If they were already moldy, even just one, your shelf life at home won’t be as long as these estimates.
How to Store Strawberries?
A lot of people have different cheat-methods and shortcuts on how to store strawberries, but from personal experience, the best and arguably only way to store them is in the refrigerator.
Strawberries shouldn’t be stored in airtight containers. Rather line a baking tray or plastic container with some dry kitchen towel (paper towels) and neatly pack the strawberries inside. Then wrap the container with plastic wrap and punch a few holes at the top with a fork or knife (be careful not to bruise the strawberries inside).
Place the strawberries in the refrigerator away from any strong-smelling ingredients like garlic or curry paste – strawberries are porous and will absorb those aromas.
Cut strawberries can also be placed on kitchen towel and stored in an air-tight container to prevent any bacteria or odors from reaching them.
The refrigerator should have a temperature around 40˚F / 4˚C and should be very stable. Fluctuating temperature may affect the shelf life.
See the section on how to extend the shelf life for long-time storage solutions.
How To Buy The Freshest Strawberries
One of the most important things to take into consideration with strawberry shelf life is the condition you bought them in. This will directly affect the quality of berries you are taking home and consuming and how long they will last there.
Tips on buying strawberries;
– There shouldn’t be any mold present in the container – not on even one berry or even a tiny spore. Mold grows rapidly and unless you are planning to use them immediately (on the same day you buy them), rather look for a different punnet.
– Strawberries shouldn’t have any bruises on them or the container. A bruise is an area where bacteria can gain access to exposed flesh and therefore nutrients.
– You can check the sell-by or use-by date on the container, but most don’t have any as they are shipped from different parts of the world (meaning they have different timelines).
How Can You Tell If Strawberries Have Gone Bad?
Strawberries have different phases of spoilage.
The first signs that strawberries have gone bad or are beginning to are when they become softer. This happened when they reach a certain age, just like how we get wrinkles with age.
Mold doesn’t always grow when this happens, but it is a strong possibility. When strawberries aren’t stored at perfect conditions, mold will multiply and take over the whole punnet. This bacteria isn’t safe to consume and shouldn’t.
If there are only mold on one strawberry, that strawberry can be discarded and the rest can be used immediately.
Other common signs of bad strawberries are any off odors that come from the container or any blemishes and discolorations. Strawberries should have a very bright and even red color – no black spots, no faded reds.
Is It OK to Use Expired Strawberries?
It is ever okay to eat food with mold on them. You cannot tell good from bad bacteria with the naked eye and therefore shouldn’t risk it.
Although food can contain good/beneficial bacteria, the type of bacteria that grows on it after a few days usually isn’t safe.
Berries especially can carry cyclospora which is a bacterium that can cause diarrhea, bloating, vomiting, and other food-poisoning symptoms.
Even if your strawberries don’t show signs of mold, but are past their printed expiry date and are very soft, their taste will still not be the same as fresh strawberries.
If you ever doubt or wonder if it is safe to eat, rather throw it away and don’t take the risk.
Can You Extend Their Shelf Life?
As we have mentioned before, short-term storage for strawberries are in the refrigerator. This is the only method that will work.
There are however some options you can try for long-term storage of strawberries. Of course, these methods will affect the structure and flavor of the strawberries, but they can also become a dish on their own.
Freezing is a well-known way to preserve food for longer periods. To freeze strawberries, you can simply place them in a freezer-safe container and then directly into the freezer.
The ideal freezer temperature should be around 0˚F / -18˚C. Your whole strawberries will now last up to 8 months if there aren’t any fluctuating temperatures and the cut strawberries will last up to 4 months.
Strawberries can be preserved in a medium simply syrup. This is a great way to make a side dish, accompaniment, or garnish out of strawberries – especially if you have loads of them.
Another preserving technique is to ferment them. This might sound contradictory to what this whole article is about anti-bacteria; however, when fermenting strawberries under controlled conditions, the risks involved are minimal.
Jams are another great way to preserve strawberries and instead of using them whole (like preserving them in a sugar syrup), you are using them in a softer version. You can use strawberries that have become soft without mold for this.
The last method to extend the shelf life is by dehydrating your berries. This can be done either in an oven or in the sun. The basics of the process involve thinly slicing the strawberries, laying them flat on a baking sheet, and allowing them to dry.