This is what I’ve learned about berries: big plump, symmetrical ones that won’t squish when packed in a grocery bag, won’t get moldy in a few days, and won’t leak juice, are to be avoided.
Hmmm… Wait, but, that wisdom flies in the face of everything I assumed I knew about strawberries!?
Here are the six “myths” I used to tell myself, and how to choose the best strawberries:
1. Big Strawberries Will be Sweeter.
It is incredibly satisfying to bite into a monster strawberry, but puffed-up berries usually have minimal flavor and fewer nutrients than smaller ones. They tend to have a lower skin to water ratio and it’s the skin where much of the nutrients hide. Tiny wild blueberries, for example, are far more flavorful than larger ones and can be bought frozen year-round.
2.You can’t tell if it’s juicy until you bite into it
If you can’t see juice when you buy it, you won’t taste it when you eat it. Look for signs of a little juice in the carton. Low juice berries are an indicator that the berry was bred for a long shelf life.
3. The Ones that Keep the Longest are the Freshest
I find that the farmers market strawberries I buy go bad quickly (a good thing!); it’s because they are picked the day before I buy them, meaning they are at the height of their flavor and nutritional value.
4. Color Does Not Vary Much
“The blacker the berry
The sweeter the juice
I could say it ain’t so
But darlin’, what’s the use?” – Run and Tell That, Hairspray Musical
The deeper the color of berries, the higher the antioxidant level (part of the reason blueberries and blackberries are so high); once you start noticing color, you’ll see that especially with strawberries and raspberries, there is a huge range of color.
5. Symmetrical Berries are a Sign of High Quality
Big, uniform, symettrical berries are grown for high volume, commercial purposes to ensure a consistent look in the package and on plates of catered sandwiches. Farmer’s market berries are much uglier than store-bought.
6. Organic is always best.
Many of the organic brands in stores are run by huge conglomerates (eg. Driscol’s). Though pesticide-free, these berries are grown to withstand long-distance travel and an extended lay-over in a warehouse. The ideal body type for this job? Big and firm.
Many organic berries are delicious (and if the choice is commercial v. organic, go organic) but if it’s local v. large scale organic, I’d go local–the pesticide level is usually low and many farms are pesticide-free even if they are not officially labeled organic.
And a tip for prolonging your strawberries once you bring them home – don’t wash them until just before eating, as moisture speeds up the spoiling.
In other words, if you rinse off your strawberries, you have less than 24 hours to eat them or they will go bad!
Other berry thoughts or advice? Berry good! (ugh) Drop them in “comments”