Ah berries! Not only are they tasty, most of them are considered part of the super fruits category, loaded with antioxidants! If you are gardening right now you are probably overwhelmed with all of your berries ripening at the same time. Maybe you’re one of those farmer’s market addicts that insists on buying flats of berries just knowing you are going to eat a lot of them! Of course you don’t want them to go to waste so what’s the best way to store them and use them all?
Berries are very tender fruits which can break open easily. They are also prone to molds. They need to be handled and stored delicately. If you bought them at a market, you already have a good container to store them in. The best is an open breathable paper type container to keep good airflow around the fruit. Grocery chains use plastic shells to keep the berries from crushing during transport. If you purchased from a grocery store in a plastic container, make sure it has enough holes to keep condensation from building inside. If you are harvesting your own berries, hopefully you saved these container types from your other grocery shopping trips. If not, cardboard boxes are your best option. You can use paper bags for tougher berries like blueberries or cherries, but raspberry style berries will most like break apart.
Do not wash your berries until right before you use them. Washing them ahead of time may damage them, but also increases the bacteria and mold growth. I tried washing ahead of time once and noticed they degraded faster and there was a taste difference as well. When you do wash your berries, put them in a colander and gently shower them with water until they are clean. A salad spinner works great.
Are you starting to figure out you can’t eat them all? It’s better to find out as early as possible how many you can truly eat now versus later. Not only do they lose their peak flavor, the nutrient content of your berries decrease after they have been harvested.
You can freeze berries easily. It’s better to freeze them as fresh as possible for best taste. On a cookie baking sheet pan, arrange the berries individually so they do not touch each other. Sit the pan in the freezer until at least the outside of the berries are frozen. Pour into gallon size freezer bags and store in the freezer. Rather than buy a freezer pack machine, you can easily get the air out of these bags yourself. Seal all but a corner of the bag and suck the air out like you are sucking on a straw. You’d be surprised at how much you can get out! There are differences of opinion on whether or not you should wash the berries before you freeze them. You can always wash them after you thaw them. If they are organic, I don’t wash them. I’d rather keep the integrity of the berry. If you do decide to wash ahead of time, make sure you completely dry them before you start the freezing process.
Ok, you’ve come to a point where you have berries that just aren’t good enough to eat fresh. What do you do? Some people make jams or jellies. I like to make cobblers, crisps and crumbles! They are easy to make. Search for my rhubarb crisp recipe and substitute berries. You can also make smoothies which I also have a recipe for on earlier months.
For year round berry goodness, make sure to get your berries while you can, and freeze some to enjoy in the winter too!