Tempting, juicy, and sweet, strawberries entice us with their edibility. They’re impossible to resist, plus so very versatile. But are you getting the most from them? With a few storage, prep, and cooking tricks up your sleeve, you can make the most of succulent strawberries…in season, or not.
When Are Strawberries in Season?
We’re accustomed to seeing strawberries in markets year-sound, but in truth, strawberries are a late spring and early summer crop. That’s when they’re at their most flavorful.
Perhaps more than any other fruit, strawberries harvested on off-peak seasons can’t hold a candle to ones enjoyed in season. In southern areas, strawberries may be ready as early as March. But in many places, strawberries reach their peak in May and June.
If you love eating raw berries, this is when to do it.
The strawberries you see at the store were bred to be sturdy, with a long shelf life. Strawberries from farmers’ markets, u-pick farms, and your own garden will inevitably have the best taste, though their heartiness is fleeting.
- Chandler: Initially bred for commercial cultivation, this variety thrives in many zones, yields well, and has an intense flavor. It’s a popular choice for home gardeners.
- Fraises de Bois: These tiny wild strawberries (Fragaria vesca) go by many names, including alpine strawberries and woodland strawberries (“fraises de bois” means “strawberries of the forest”). Their delicate structure means you’ll find them in gardens and wilds only, not at stores and markets.
- Pineberries: These alien-looking novelties are all white when ripe, with a pink or orange tinge to their flesh. Pineberries are a relatively new cross-bred variety and have a slight pineapple flavor.
How to Shop for Strawberries
There’s hardly a grocery store standing that doesn’t sell strawberries. At stores, strawberries are almost always sold in one- or two-pound plastic containers. You can also buy them frozen, which is a good option if you’re making smoothies.
At farmers’ markets and farm stands, strawberries are sold in pint or quart cartons. One pint holds about 12 ounces of berries. They’ll often have flats available, too, for those who want to freeze the berries or make jam. A flat of strawberries holds 12 pints.
Look for berries that are as red and plump as possible, with shiny skin and perky green tops. If they’re in a plastic container, lift the container and check the bottom for moldy berries.
Select organic strawberries, if possible. Conventionally grown strawberries consistently rank at the top of the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list of produce contaminated with pesticides.
Strawberries are a fun and low-maintenance perennial to grow in a home garden. They can take up a lot of space in a bed, but they also do well in containers.
How to Store Strawberries
Strawberries have a short shelf life, particularly homegrown or u-pick berries. When you get fresh strawberries home, the best thing to do is pop them straight in the fridge. They’ll last 3-7 days in the fridge.
If you plan to eat or cook the berries in a few days, though, they’ll last 1-2 days at cool room temperature. Leave them uncovered.
To extend the shelf life of sturdy grocery store berries, wash them in a bath of 1 1/2 cups cool water and 1/4 cup white vinegar. Mix the vinegar solution in a bowl, add the berries, let soak 5 minutes, then drain. Pat dry gently but well and keep in a covered container with a dry paper towel. They’ll last up to 2 weeks this way.
How to Freeze Strawberries
To freeze strawberries, remove the green tops, rinse the strawberries under cool water, then pat dry. Cut the strawberries in half, in quarter pieces, or slice them. (You can freeze them whole, but if you're planning to use them later in a crisp, cobbler, or pie, it's much easier to slice them now!)
Place them in a single layer on a parchment- or Silpat-lined baking sheet, then freeze for two hours, or until the individual strawberries are frozen.
Take them off the baking sheet and put them into Ziploc bag or other airtight storage container, and place them back in the freezer until you’re ready to use them!
How to Trim Strawberries
Always wash strawberries before eating them.
Even though the green, leafy strawberry tops are edible, most everyone trims those off first. You can do this with a paring knife, but a simple and inexpensive metal strawberry huller is faster and wastes less of the berry.
The white tips of strawberries are higher in pectin than the rest of the berry, so if you’re making jam, don’t trim those off—keeping them on helps the jam set better!
Because they’re so luscious, strawberries often appear in or on top of desserts raw, such as the classic strawberry shortcake. But strawberries are incredibly versatile—besides reveling in them as-is, you can roast them, macerate them in balsamic vinegar, make jam in the microwave, even chop them for savory salsas. Cooking strawberries concentrates their flavor.
Strawberries are technically not berries at all, but rather aggregate accessory fruits. Each of its seeds is actually an individual fruit!