While it is a treat that some berries are available in grocery stores year-round, berries are seasonal fruits and will be more plentiful, less expensive, and usually better tasting when in season. In general, berries are best when the weather is warm. When purchasing, select berries that are plump, tender, and bright in color. Avoid containers that are damp or stained, which might be signs of overripe fruit. Remove and discard any moldy or mushy berries so mold won't spread to other berries. If picking your own, select berries that separate easily from their stems. Unlike some fruits, berries generally don't ripen or get sweeter after picking.
At Their Peak
Refrigerate unwashed berries, loosely covered, in a single layer. Heaping them on top of one another can crush the berries. For freezer storage directions, see How to Freeze Berries, below.
Because berries are so delicate, do not wash them until right before you use them, or they can break down and get mushy.
Berries freeze well and can be used frozen for smoothies or thawed for use in baking and sauces. When thawing, berries tend to loose their shape as well as some of their juice, so place freezer bags of berries on a baking sheet or in a bowl to thaw in case the bags leak.
Tip: For strawberries, you might want to hull the berries before freezing. If you prefer to slice the strawberries before freezing, omit the freezing step above, which is for whole berries, and freeze as directed below.
Tip: Measure the berries with a measuring cup as you put them in the bags or containers, and write the amount in cups on each bag or container. When you need berries for a recipe, you will know how many you have available.
Freezing with a Sugar Pack
You can sweeten the berries before freezing. If using strawberries, slice if desired. Place a small amount of fruit in the freezer bag or container and sprinkle lightly with sugar. Repeat the layering, leaving a little space at the top of the bag or container. Cover and let the fruit stand about 15 minutes or until juicy. Seal and freeze as directed above.