As summer stretches into long, balmy afternoons and ripens to a peak, so does the fruit in the fields and orchards. Suddenly the market is brimming with sweet, juicy nectarines, ruby red strawberries, and plump indigo blueberries. And then, poof! As quickly as they appeared, they’ll be gone. If this brief, dizzying moment of plenty sends you into a buying frenzy, you’re not alone. Once you’ve carried home your weight in peak-ripeness apricots and raspberries, how do you keep them from turning to mush before you can devour every last one? Here’s how to extend the life of your precious summer bounty.
Keep it cool.
Refrigerate all berries and ripe stone fruits as soon as you bring them home. Once they’ve reached their peak, the heat (even room temperature) will cause spoilage, quickly. Perfect strawberries can go bad in a single afternoon on the counter.
Keep it dry.
Humidity is the enemy. Don’t wash your fruit until ready to eat, and store on paper towels or a clean dish towel to absorb any excess moisture. Keep it on a shelf in your fridge, not in the crisper drawer — unless you have one you can program. The standard fridge drawers offer a higher-humidity environment suited to vegetables, but unfriendly to fruit.
Give it space.
Ripe fruit is soft and injures easily. Don’t leave raspberries piled into the box they came in to be mushed under their own weight, and don’t cram juicy nectarines into a produce bag where they bash and bruise each other senseless every time you rustle them. Whenever you damage the flesh, you create an opportunity for mould.
Give it air.
If fruit is packed tightly, there is little air circulation, which means more humidity and faster rot. Store ripe stone fruit like peaches, plums and cherries in a shallow bowl in the fridge. Gently transfer fragile berries to a wide container lined with paper towels, keeping them in a single layer or close to it. Leave the container lid slightly ajar to let excess moisture escape.
Wash in acid.
If you’ve brought home apricots or strawberries that are still slightly under-ripe, try giving them an acid bath. Swish any whole (never cut), firm fruit in one part vinegar to 10 parts water. The solution kills off any mould spores already on the fruit, potentially increasing its longevity.
Looking for more tasty recipes? Try one of our 36 Strawberry Desserts to Celebrate Summer.