How to Harvest and Store Strawberries
- Strawberries boast more vitamin C than any other berry; half a cup provides 70 percent of the recommended daily allotment. They also contain ellagic acid, which research suggests may help to prevent some types of cancer.
- After the flowers bloom, it usually takes about one month before the strawberries are ripe. The best part about strawberry plants is that they’ll keep blooming and producing fruit during the harvest season. When you look at a plant during harvest season, you’ll see strawberries in many different stages of development: flowers, tiny green berries, larger green berries, big white berries and finally ripe red berries.
- Strawberries are their sweetest when fully ripened on the plants. For most varieties this means leaving the berries on the plant for a day or two after they are fully colored. Pick the berries when they’re fully red and no green shows at the tips. The only way to know for sure is a taste test.
- Strawberries bruise easily. Be gentle when pulling them from the plants. Snap or snip the stem directly above the berry rather than pulling on the berry itself. Never grasp the berries themselves or you’ll risk bruising them.
- Store your strawberries in the refrigerator and don’t wash them until you are ready to use them. The best way to store them in the fridge is in a glass jar with a lid on it.
- Freeze strawberries for long-term storage, or make them into preserves, ice cream or muffins. Collect and store strawberries in shallow containers, no more than 5 inches deep, to avoid crushing the fruit on the bottom.
- Remember, strawberries are picked at their peak of juicy freshness and do not ripen after harvesting. So, when buying strawberries select ones that are bright red in color, have a natural sheen, with fresh-looking green caps.
- Just before using, wash strawberries with the caps attached. For best flavor, allow the strawberries to reach room temperature before serving.
- Happily, strawberries have very few pest problems, but the ones they do have can be a real pain. The biggest pest for any berry grower is that of the feathered variety. Birds like nothing better than to devour fresh berries. They always seem to get to mine right before they’re ripe enough to pick. To keep birds off of your berries, simply cover the plant or your entire patch with netting. You can purchase bird netting in any home and garden center.
- The other main pests of strawberries are slugs and snails. They find strawberry foliage absolutely delectable. To keep them away, you can install copper edging around the perimeter of your bed. Slugs and snails won’t cross copper because it creates an electric reaction when it comes into contact with their slime. You can also sit out a bowl of beer and it will attract the slugs, they get in the bowl and drown. Or you can sprinkle Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth on the soil surrounding your strawberry plants. DE acts like sharp little blades of glass that cut the soft bellies of the bugs. It also dehydrates them rather quickly.
- Once you have your strawberry plants planted and growing happily, you’ll be enjoying the fruits of your labor for years on end, with very little maintenance on your part.