Picking the Best Berries
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
- Blackberries: June through August
- Blueberries: Late May through October
- Boysenberries: Late June through early August
- Raspberries: May through September
- Strawberries: April through June
How to Store Berries
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.
- For strawberries and blueberries, store in the refrigerator up to five days.
- For blackberries, raspberries, and boysenberries, store in the refrigerator up to three days
How to Wash Berries
Because berries are so delicate, do not wash them until right before you use them, or they can break down and get mushy.
- For strawberries, place them in a colander and gently rinse under cool water before removing the stems. If you remove the stems before washing, the water can affect the texture and flavor of the berries.
- For blackberries, raspberries, boysenberries, and blueberries, do not rinse under running water because the pressure can crush them. Instead, place the berries in a colander and dip them in a bowl of cold water. Gently swish the colander in the water, then allow the berries to drain.
- To dry all kinds of berries, after washing carefully spread the berries in a single layer on a tray or baking sheet lined with paper towels. Pat the berries dry with another paper towel.
How to Freeze Berries
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.
- Wash the berries and pat dry as directed above. Arrange the whole berries on a baking sheet and freeze until solid or up to a couple of days. This keeps the berries loose and makes measuring and thawing easier.
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.
- Transfer the frozen berries to freezer bags or freezer containers. Leave a little space at the top of the bag or container, because the berries might expand a little. Label the bags or containers with the name of the berry, date frozen, and amount.
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.
- Lay bags of berries flat in the freezer. You can also place the bags on a tray or baking sheet first to assure a flat surface. Add bags or containers of berries to the freezer in batches to make sure they freeze quickly, and leave room around each to allow air to circulate. You can stack the bags or containers once the fruit is frozen.
- Freeze berries for up to 12 months.
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.