Our Tips for Maximizing Your Berry Season

To enjoy fresh berries at their finest, they need a bit of extra care. Learn how to choose, clean, and store berries for the best flavor possible.

An abundant supply of fresh berries might be one of the best parts of summer. Yes, you can buy blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries in other seasons, but we always look forward to the delicious berry-filled recipes that are featured in summer, and fruit just tastes better when it's in season. We've put together our top tips for choosing the best berries, washing them, storing them, and even preserving them for months to come. Once you know how to freeze berries, you can make a mouthwatering strawberry dessert in the middle of winter.

assorted berries on table
Kritsada Panichgul

Picking The Best Berries

While it's a treat that some berries are available in grocery stores year-round, they're seasonal fruits and will be more plentiful, less expensive, and usually better-tasting when they're in season. Berries are best when the weather is warm. When you're buying, choose the ones that are plump, tender, and bright in color. Avoid containers that are damp or stained, which might be signs of overripe or bruised fruit. Remove and discard any moldy or mushy berries, so the mold won't spread. If you're picking or growing your own, select berries that separate easily from their stems. Unlike some fruits, berries generally don't ripen or get sweeter after picking. Here's when some of the most popular berries are in season:

  • Blackberries: June through August
  • Black raspberries: Late June through July
  • Blueberries: Late May through October
  • Boysenberries: Late June through early August
  • Raspberries: May through September
  • Strawberries: April through June

How to Store Berries

If you're planning to eat your berries within a few days, refrigerate them unwashed, loosely covered, and in a single layer. Heaping them on top of one another can crush them. If you regularly purchase berries, consider investing in a reusable produce keeper that can extend the life of your fruit.

  • For strawberries and blueberries, store them in the refrigerator up to five days.
  • For blackberries, raspberries, and boysenberries, store in the refrigerator up to three days.
washing strawberries in colander
Kritsada Panichgul

How to Wash Berries

It's important to wash all fresh produce before you enjoy it. But because berries are so delicate, do not wash them until right before you're going to use them, or they can break down and become mushy.

  • For strawberries, place them in a colander and gently rinse them under cool water before removing the stems. If you remove the stems before washing, more water can be absorbed, affecting the texture and flavor of the berries.
raspberries and blackberries in colander
Peter Krumhardt

For blackberries, raspberries, boysenberries, and blueberries, do not rinse under running water, as 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.

Test Kitchen Tip: If you're adamant about pre-washing your berries and want to store them in the fridge, they'll last longest if you rinse them with some apple cider vinegar in addition to water. Fill a bowl with three cups of water and one cup of apple cider vinegar, then add the berries and stir them with your hands. Rinse them in plain water, as above, so there's no vinegar taste remaining.

  • To dry berries after washing, carefully spread them in a single layer on a tray or baking sheet lined with paper towels. Gently pat the berries dry with another paper towel.
raspberries on metal tray
Marty Baldwin

How to Freeze Berries

Berries freeze well, and can be used frozen for smoothies, or thawed for use in baking and sauces. When they're thawing, berries tend to lose their shape, as well as some of their juice, so thaw freezer bags of berries on a baking sheet, or in a bowl, in case they leak.

  • Wash the berries and pat them dry, as directed above. Arrange whole berries on a baking sheet and freeze them until they're solid, up to a couple of days. This keeps the berries loose and makes measuring and thawing easier.

Test Kitchen Tip: For strawberries, you might want to hull the berries. If you prefer to slice them before freezing, omit the step above, which is for whole berries, and freeze as directed below.

raspberries in ziploc bag
Marty Baldwin
  • Transfer the frozen berries to freezer bags or freezer containers. Leave a little space at the top of the container, since the berries may expand a little. Label the containers with the name of the berry, the date frozen, and the amount.

Test Kitchen Tip: Measure the berries with a measuring cup as you put them into the containers, and write the amount in cups on each. When you need berries for a recipe, you'll 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 for a flat surface. Add the bags or containers to the freezer in batches, so that they freeze quickly and there's room around each to allow air to circulate. Once the fruit is frozen, you can stack the containers.
  • You can freeze berries up to six months.

Freezing with a Sugar Pack

You can also sweeten the berries before freezing. If you're using strawberries, slice them. Place a small amount of fruit in the container and sprinkle lightly with sugar. Repeat layering, leaving a little space at the top of the container. Cover and let the fruit stand for about 15 minutes, or until juicy. Seal and freeze as directed above.

With these tips under your belt, this summer you can make the best berry pies, strawberry recipes, blueberry desserts, you've ever had. You can also learn how to freeze peaches for later, and we have more tips on how to choose the best fruit. No matter the time of year, there are boundless amounts of fresh fruit and produce, so brush up on your knowledge and take advantage.

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