Strawberries, (which are not actually berries!) are titled as the Queen of fruits with good reason: This bright mini-powerhouse of nutrients is the most delightful and fresh produce of the Spring-Summer harvest. The Legendary J.R.R. Tolkien mentioned strawberries in the happy, blissful memories of the Hobbits of the Shire; and haven’t most of us fortunate lot encountered sweet reunions over strawberries and cream?
Strawberries, the divine essence of summer itself, have been around since approximately 234 B.C. As our ancestors searched for methods of preserving and storing fruits, it seems that storing strawberries has always been a simple process: eat them up immediately! However, as times evolved, we realized that strawberries must be stored in order to have enough lying around to make strawberry milkshakes, purees, jams, ice creams and more! Thus, storing strawberries may now involve several steps, depending on how long they are to be preserved:
1. A Day:
When you need to keep fresh strawberries for a few hours in a day, the best way to preserve them is by storing at room temperature. The temperature is essential as Anthocyanin (which makes strawberries, red) is a heat- sensitive element. Exposure to heat makes strawberries turn brown. Wash the strawberries only before eating, and cut the leafy tops after washing and draining. Do not soak them in water, as they absorb moisture thus spoiling the texture and taste of the strawberry.
2. A Week:
If you need to keep strawberries for a few days, it is best to store them in the refrigerator. First, separate any bruised, spoilt and mouldy strawberries from the rest as mould spreads quickly in strawberries due to high moisture content. Secondly, cut off the leafy heads. Then spread the strawberries in a single file in a tray or Tupperware box, lined with kitchen towels. Keep a keen eye during the week, and remove any strawberry that seems to be wet or mouldy.
3. A Month:
Prior to freezing, the strawberries must be sorted, cleaned, and dried, similar to when storing them in the refrigerator. Whole strawberries can be frozen on a baking sheet in a single file. The frozen strawberries are then to be packed into an air tight container and can be kept for several months. Storing strawberries for a month or more is effective only if they are intended to be sweetened afterwards; the best way to store strawberries in the freezer is by sprinkling them with sugar or filling them into a jar of sugar syrup. To use them, the syrup is thawed and strawberries picked out. This jar may also be kept in the refrigerator for a week.
Therefore, the best way to store strawberries is by lining sorted, cleaned (but not washed) strawberries in a single file on a kitchen towel, and keeping them in the refrigerator. They are stored dry, and washed before eating. This is the most effective storage solution as when temperatures are too hot outside, the strawberries rot and become brown quickly if left on the counter. Furthermore, freezing strawberries limits their use to sweet, liquid preparations such as blended, crushed or cooked, as they lose their original taste, texture and shape after thawing. Storing them in the refrigerator keeps them mould- free, firm and juicy for a few days, thus allowing for a vast variety of treats and sweets to be made with them, as well as providing a nutritious, healthy snack at all times: for kids and grownups alike. Happy Storing!