Can you eat moldy strawberries?

In this brief guide, we will answer the question, “Can you eat moldy strawberries?”. We will also elaborate on some common molds that grow on strawberries, and different ways to minimize their growth along with the safe handling of strawberries with mold on them.

Can you eat moldy strawberries?

No, you can not eat moldy strawberries. Strawberries have high moisture content, so the mold can penetrate deep down on the surface. That implies moldy strawberries have to go in the trash. 

Many molds provoke allergic responses and respiratory issues. And some molds, in the appropriate conditions, secrete mycotoxins, which are toxic substances that can make you ill.  Some people can develop sensitivities to various species of mold. For these people, mold exposure can cause congestion, wheezing, or eye and skin irritation. It can aggravate asthma and other respiratory disorders as well. For others, exposure can result in a more severe reaction (3).

It should be kept in mind that you only see part of the mold on the surface of food, for instance, gray fur on bologna that is kept outside, or small velvety spheres on fruits. It may seem less to you, but in reality, it could have penetrated the entire food deeply.  

When a food exhibits substantial mold growth, the mold threads have undoubtedly penetrated it intensely. In deadly molds, toxic substances are often present in and throughout these threads. In some situations, poisons may have dispersed completely in the food.

So, even if you see slight mold growth on strawberries, discard them right away. 

You should start by discarding the moldy strawberries and any other strawberries that are directly in contact with them. Then keenly observe all the other strawberries: if they show no indications of mold and are not extremely mushy then you can go forward and consume them. But, make sure you rinse the strawberries properly first.

The common mold that grows on strawberries 

More than 50 different genera of fungi can affect this cultivar, including Botrytis spp., Colletotrichum spp., Verticillium spp., and Phytophthora spp (1)

Botrytis cinerea is the common gray mold that grows on strawberries. This mold is most prevalent during prolonged cold, wet weather during bloom and near harvesting. Botrytis fruit rot appears in the fields before harvest, especially when the crop has remained persistently wet, but it chiefly develops in picked fruit. Lesions in green and white fruit develop slowly. The fruit becomes misshapen as it enlarges and may die before reaching maturity. The rot expands rapidly in the fruit as it nears maturity, often until the entire fruit is affected. A key diagnostic feature of botrytis fruit rot is the grayish mass of mycelium, conidiophores, and conidia of the mold on the surface of rotted tissues (1).

The infected strawberry spot is at first light brown in color and slightly soft in texture. As the whole strawberry becomes contaminated, the rotten part gets firm with a dark brown color. 

Anthracnose of strawberry, especially anthracnose fruit rot, is a very destructive disease caused by species of Colletotrichum, where the predominant species is C. acutatum. Infected flowers and buds may become dry and withered. Fruit infection can be devastating during periods of favorable temperature and the presence of moisture, either in the form of rain or high relative humidity. Circular, firm, sunken lesions that typically become black may develop on ripening fruit (1).

How to properly store strawberries?

Strawberries are famous in the phytonutrient world as a rich source of phenols. Strawberries are also an excellent source of vitamin C, manganese, dietary fiber, iodine, potassium, folate, vitamin B2, vitamin B5, vitamin B6, omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, copper, and vitamin K. One problem related to this fruit is the short shelf-life, delicate nature and susceptibility to rot. Shelf life of strawberry is very short mainly due to its fast softening rate and enhanced pathogen susceptibility usually associated with this process. Cell wall disassembly and loss of cell turgor during fruit ripening are considered the main factors responsible for fruit softening (1).

Below are some ways to help your strawberries last longer (2).

Make sure you do not leave the strawberries out at room temperature, but only when you intend to eat them within 1 or 2 days since strawberries are extremely perishable and do not mature after being harvested.

Store the strawberries in a refrigerator by keeping them in a closed clamshell plastic container (if bought in one) or place strawberries by setting them loosely in a shallow container and wrapping them with plastic wrap. 

Waste off any bruised or moldy strawberries before you refrigerate them.

To prolong the shelf life of strawberries, do not rinse the strawberries if you do not intend to eat or use them any time soon. 

Accurately stored strawberries will normally remain safe for approximately 3 to 7 days in the refrigerator. Those stored in the freezer will maintain the best quality for around 10 to 12 months, but will be safe for consumption past that time.

How to freeze whole strawberries? 

To freeze whole strawberries, follow the steps below (2):

  • Rinse strawberries and blot them dry 
  • Separate stems off at the head of the strawberries 
  • Put strawberries cut side below, on a cookie sheet lined with waxed paper
  • Place unsealed cookie sheets in the freezer for a few hours, till they are frozen 
  • Shift frozen strawberries to closed airtight containers or heavy-duty freezer packs.

Strawberries may be frozen whole, sliced, crushed, or puréed, depending on their intended use in recipes. Large strawberries give a better product when sliced or crushed before freezing. Frozen strawberries can be substituted for fresh berries in recipes, but thawed whole berries will have a much softer texture than the fresh fruit. Frozen whole strawberries are best served with a few ice crystals still remaining-if thawed completely, the berries will be mushy. Syrup and sugar packs produce higher quality frozen strawberries, with a better flavor and texture, than berries packed without sweetening (2).

How to know if strawberries have gone bad? 

Strawberries that have been spoiled typically become soft and mushy and their color deteriorates. If you see any visible growth of mold on strawberries or if the strawberries have an off odor or appearance, just discard them.

Ways to minimize mold growth

Mold belongs to the fungi kingdom.  The ubiquitous nature of mold allows for growth in both indoor and outdoor environments. Specifically, warm, moist environments strongly support mold growth; however, colder temperatures where the moisture level is high can also support mold growth. Refrigerators and walk-in cooler units are ideal environments for mold growth due to the high moisture levels and abundant food sources (3). Cleanliness is the primary step in regulating mold growth. Prior to manipulating fruits it is necessary to wash hands and all the utensils to be used. Mold spores from contaminated mushrooms or other food products can accumulate in the fridge, dishcloths, and other cleaning tools. Follow the steps below to minimize mold growth:

  • Clean the inside of the fridge after a few months with one tbsp of baking soda mixed in one-quarter of water. 
  • Clean with water and dry. 
  • Scrape any visible mold on rubber casings using three tsp of bleach in one-quarter of water. 
  • Keep dishcloths, napkins, sponges, and dusters clean and fresh. A musty smell indicates they are growing mold around. Discard items you can not clean or wash. 
  • Maintain the humidity level in the house under 40 per cent.

Other FAQs about Strawberries that you may be interested in.

How long does it take for strawberries to sprout

Conclusion 

In this brief guide, we have provided an answer to the question, “Can you eat moldy strawberries?”. We have also elaborated on some common molds that grow on strawberries, and different ways to minimize their growth along with the safe handling of strawberries with mold on them.

References 

  1. Garrido, Carlos, et al. New insights in the study of strawberry fungal pathogens. Gen Genomes Genomic, 2011, 5, 24-39.
  2. Harris, Linda J. Strawberries: Safe Methods to Store, Preserve, and Enjoy. UCANR Publications, 2007.
  3. Refrigeration Mold Control. Michigan State University. 2021.