Sometimes, the most memorable kitchen lessons come from negative examples. In my case, it was finally learning why I was so bad at keeping raspberries fresh. I bought them fresh and yet, year after year, I would find them getting moldy after just a couple of days. When I was finally fed up, I enlightened myself by gathering some tips I really should have known already. With the help of farmers’ market vendors and some of our fresh-food-loving friends, I finally unlocked the secrets of handling summer berries with care.
Summer berries all share certain qualities. They’re small, they’re delicate, and they’re soft. This means they can’t be cleaned and stored with the same rough techniques you’d use on stone fruits or melons. I discovered opinions on how best to wash them are surprisingly varied. There are even some folks who swear they shouldn’t be washed at all.
Here are the lessons I’ve personally taken to heart:
1) Timing Counts
Berries should only be rinsed immediately before use. Extra water increases the chances of mold the longer it stays on the berries.
2) Soaking Is No Good
Rinse berries in a colander instead of submerging them. This is particularly important if, for whatever reason, you’re not going to use all your berries immediately.
3) A Quick Chill Works Wonders
A fresh, warm, sun-ripened berry is delicate and delightful. That soft texture is wonderful to eat, but it sure does complicate washing the fruit. I’ve gotten much better results by chilling berries before rinsing them. An hour’s stay in the refrigerator will firm them up just enough to stand up to a good washing.
4) Smart Storage
Once your berries are rinsed, return them to the refrigerator in a container that lets air circulate freely. In fact, leaving them in the colander is a pretty effective solution.
5) Ignore The Crisper Drawer
Many people swear that berries spoil more quickly if you stick them in the crisper. The theory is that the still, high-humidity air makes it too easy for mold to grow. Speaking from my own experience, I agree with the theory. My berries do better when I leave them outside the crisper.
I you are a huge fan of summer berries, and who isn’t? Why not try growing your own, ready to pick next season. Yes, you can plant berries in the fall. So, why not get out there today and get started on next years punnet?