It’s pig-out time for local strawberries where I live in New York City, which conveniently coincides with Father’s Day. If you’re like me, you’ve either bought more quarts at the farmer’s market than you can use in one day or you’ve just loaded a trunk-full at a pick-your-own farm. So what’s the best way to store all those berries?
It turns out there are lots of conflicting recommendations. One thing everyone does agree on is this: Don’t wash or trim the berries ahead of time. The less they are handled, the better.
I was curious what a strawberry farmer does, so I asked Rick Bishop, owner of Mountain Sweet Berry Farm in the Catskills. He’s super-busy right now harvesting for his bi-weekly stints at the Union Square Greenmarket in New York City. “Keep ‘em cold, 36° to 38°F, open container,” he replied flat out. When I mentioned plastic bags, he was quick to respond, ”They’re terrible! The berries can’t breathe!” Bishop is one of the few berry purveyors at Union Square who packs up your pints in paper bags.
The only plastic he does approve of are the green, mock-wicker baskets. They allow for a lot more ventilation than the more environmentally-friendly fiberboard ones.
With only one—very crammed—fridge, I’ve had the most success keeping my berries uncovered in the containers they came in, on the bottom shelf, which is the coldest area in a refrigerator. If the weather’s been dry so that the berries aren’t waterlogged, I’ve been able to keep some as long as five days to parcel out at breakfast.
To satisfy more of your summer strawberry cravings, check out the Gourmet Live app this week for my father’s favorite Strawberry Shortcake recipe.