The Trick To Keep Berries Fresh, According To Food Scientists

Fresh berries are one of the food highlights of spring and summer. They're great on their own, or in a bowl of yogurt or cereal, and a pie made with fresh berries will always trump anything from a can. Wait too long to use those berries, though, and you'll quickly find that they're no longer fresh — instead, they're moldy and mushy. It's a real bummer, especially if you picked them yourself or shelled out some cash for organic strawberries at the local farmers market. 

So how does one go about beating the bad berry blues and making sure those berries stay fresh for as long as possible without freezing them? There are actually a couple of different ways to better prevent berry spoilage, and the good thing is that they're both incredibly easy food hacks. Food scientist Harold McGee shared his method with The New York Times and it's a super easy solution — boiling water. 

A boiling berry bath

McGee's technique is known as thermotherapy and is basically just giving whatever berries you have a quick bath in boiling water. "Quick" is the key word here, too. McGee suggests that as soon as you bring your fresh berries home you should boil a pot of water to 125°F. You'll need to use an instant-read thermometer on the side of your pot to get the right water temperature, but once you do, dunk the berries in for 30 seconds. 

The berries should be fully submerged, and it's important that you don't leave them in longer than 30 seconds. You're not trying to cook the berries, you just want the boiling water to suppress any bacteria that could lead to mold growth. Remove them with a slotted spoon and transfer them to a paper towel for drying before storing them in the fridge. That's it — pretty easy, right?   

Use a vinegar solution to extend berry life

If you don't have a thermometer and aren't comfortable with guestimating the 125°F temperature of boiling water, there's another easy way to accomplish the same goal. The whole idea of keeping your berries fresh for as long as possible is to kill spores and bacteria on your berries that could result in mold growth. 

By washing your berries in a diluted solution of 3 cups of water and 1 cup of vinegar, you can prolong the freshness of your berries (via Food52). Just mix up the solution and give your berries a quick dunk in it before rinsing them off in a colander under cool water. Dry them off just like before and store them in an airtight container in the fridge. 

Now neither of these methods will make your berries last for weeks, but you should get a couple of extra days to enjoy them and decide on what perfect berry pie you want to bake.