Fresh berries are rarely cheap, so if you've discovered a moldy berry or two in the basket you brought home from the farmers' market or grocery store, you're probably wondering if you have to toss them all. It'd be such a bummer!
Fortunately, the answer is that one bad berry doesn't necessarily spoil the whole bunch. Here's what the experts say about when you can salvage your berries, when you're better off trashing (or composting) them, and how to reduce the risk of ending up with moldy berries.
Is It Ok To Eat Moldy Berries?
You discover a moldy strawberry, blueberry, or raspberry lurking in your pint of berries—what do you do? "If you open the container and find that a few of your berries look a bit fuzzy, you can pick out the ones that are moldy and the rest should be fine to eat," says Bonnie Taub-Dix, Registered Dietician Nutritionist and author of Read It Before You Eat It. "If the moldy berry was clinging tightly to the berry next to it, you may want to ditch that one, too."
And in case it's not obvious, toss any berries that actually have mold on them. "When it comes to the moldy berries themselves, you should throw them out," says Janice Revell, cofounder of StillTasty.com, a website that helps readers avoid food waste. "It’s not safe to eat soft fruits—like berries—that have mold on the surface because the mold could have penetrated into the flesh of the fruit where it’s not visible to the naked eye," Revell adds, echoing advice from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
After you discard any moldy berries and any berries that were touching the bad ones, the USDA says to examine the remaining berries to be sure they aren't overly mushy and don't show signs of mold. Then thoroughly wash the rest of the berries before eating them.
What Happens if You Eat a Moldy Berry?
"If you ate a berry that was moldy, it’s not likely that it will make you ill. But when in doubt, it’s best to throw them out," says Taub-Dix. "The money you’ll waste by throwing them away is not as costly as wasting a day by not feeling well." Both Revell and the USDA note that eating moldy fruit can cause allergic reactions and respiratory problems. So in the unlikely event that you do experience symptoms such as shortness of breath, give your doctor a call.
Tips for Avoiding Moldy Berries
Of course, the best way to avoid eating moldy berries is to avoid having moldy berries in your fridge in the first place. Here are some tips on buying the best berries and keeping them in good shape.
Inspect the package: Taub-Dix recommends buying berries in clear containers so you can check them well for any visible mold. If you buy berries in a cardboard package, make sure the outside of the carton, including the bottom, is completely dry.
Keep them cool and dry: Once you get your berries home, put them in the fridge and wait to wash them until just before you are planning to eat them or cook with them. Warm and/or damp berries are much more prone to mold, so keeping them dry in the fridge should make them last longer.
Use them quickly: Fresh, unwashed berries can last up to a week in the fridge, but the best bet is to use them within two or three days, especially if you're dealing with really delicate berries such as raspberries. If the clock is ticking on your berries, you can always turn them into a quick microwave jam or freeze them. To freeze, rinse the berries and pat them dry, slice if desired, place in a single layer on a parchment- or Silpat-lined sheet pan, then freeze until solid and transfer to an airtight bag or container.
Consider buying frozen berries: Speaking of frozen berries, if berries are out of season or you are cooking with them or making smoothies, consider buying frozen berries. "Nutritionally, frozen foods are just as valuable as fresh counterparts, plus they’re easier to store, they’ll last longer, and they will probably cost less as well," says Taub-Dix.