Why do strawberries go bad so fast? (+5 spoilage signs)
In this guide, we will answer the question, “Why do strawberries go bad so fast?”. We will also discuss how long strawberries last, how you can tell if a strawberry has spoiled, and how to properly store strawberries.
Why do strawberries go bad so fast?
Strawberries go bad quickly due to several factors, one of them being the high water content that makes strawberries prone to mould and bacterial growth, especially if they have any moisture on the surface (1).
Another factor to consider is that strawberries are rich in natural sugars, which can serve as a food source for microorganisms, hastening spoilage (1).
Strawberries are also sensitive to temperature changes, exposure to higher temperatures for instance accelerates metabolic processes that lead to spoilage (2).
Lastly, strawberries have a delicate structure, with their skin providing only limited protection against external factors. As a result, they are highly perishable and require careful handling and refrigeration (3).
How long do strawberries last?
On average, fresh strawberries can last a few hours when left at room temperature. However, they can last for about 3 to 7 days when stored properly in the refrigerator at temperatures around 32 °F to 36 °F (0 °C to 2 °C). It’s essential to keep them in a ventilated container or on a paper towel to manage excess moisture, as strawberries are prone to mould growth (3).
If you freeze strawberries, you can significantly extend their shelf life, allowing them to be preserved for up to 8 to 12 months while maintaining their quality, making them suitable for various culinary uses even beyond their fresh state (4).
What affects the shelf life of strawberries?
The shelf life of strawberries can be impacted by several conditions:
Exposure to high temperatures, whether during storage or transport, accelerates the metabolic process, promoting the growth of microorganisms and enzymatic reactions that lead to spoilage (2,3).
Excess moisture on the strawberries’ surface can create a conducive environment for mould growth and the development of bacterial colonies. Once mould or bacterial growth initiates on one strawberry, it can quickly spread to neighbouring berries, leading to accelerated spoilage of the entire batch (2,3).
Damages, such as bruising or crushing, can compromise their structure integrity and expedite their deterioration through several mechanisms. When the fruit’s skin is broken or damaged, it provides an entry point for microorganisms to colonize the flesh of the berries (3).
Mould or bacteria presence
The presence of mould spores or bacteria on the strawberries can quickly lead to spoilage if not controlled. The main strawberry pathogens are Botrytis cinera, Rhizopus stolonifer Colletotrichum spp., Penicillium spp. (1,3).
When strawberries ripen, they produce more ethylene gas, creating a feedback loop. The excess ethylene exposure from overripe or decaying fruits can speed up the decay process and cause the fruit to become mushy, discoloured, and develop off-flavours. That’s why you should store your strawberries away from other ethylene-produced items, like apples and bananas (3).
How can you tell if a strawberry has spoiled?
You can tell if a strawberry has spoiled by using your senses of sight, smell, and touch.
Visually, a spoiled strawberry may appear wrinkled, discoloured, or have mould growth, particularly around the stem or bruised areas (1,3,5).
It might also exhibit signs of excessive moisture, such as slimy texture (1,5).
Spoiled strawberries emit an unpleasant, sour, or mouldy odour that is distinct from their usual sweet fragrance (1,5).
When touched, spoiled strawberries may feel mushy, overly soft, or show signs of decay, such as a loss of firmness (1,5).
How can you properly store strawberries?
In the refrigerator
You can store strawberries in the refrigerator at temperatures around 32 °F to 36 °F (0 °C to 2 °C) with 90 to 95% of relative humidity, typically in the crisper drawer. When storing them, avoid washing them until just before consumption, as excess moisture can lead to spoilage (3).
To prevent moisture accumulation, place them on a paper towel in a single layer inside a ventilated container. Ensure that the container is not airtight to allow for some airflow, reducing the risk of mould growth.
In the freezer
To preserve strawberries and keep their freshness longer, you can freeze them. Start by gentling, rinsing and patting them dry. Remove the stems and any damaged or overripe parts. Lay the strawberries in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment, or until they are solid (4).
Once strawberries are frozen, transfer them to an airtight free-safe container or a freezer bag, removing as much air as possible to prevent freezer burn. Then, label the container and store it in the freezer at a temperature of 0 °F (-18 °C or lower) (4).
In this article, we have answered the query, “Why do strawberries go bad so fast?” We have also discussed how long strawberries last, how to tell if a strawberry has gone bad, and how to properly store strawberries.
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Feliziani, E. and Romanazzi, G. Postharvest Decay of Strawberry Fruit: Etiology, Epidemiology, and Disease Management. Journal of Berry Research, 2016, 6, 47-63.
Qiu Y, Zhou Y, Chang Y, et al. The Effects of Ventilation, Humidity, and Temperature on Bacterial Growth and Bacterial Genera Distribution. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2022;19(22).
USDA. The Commercial Storage of Fruits, Vegetables, and Florist and Nursery Stocks. Agricultural Research Service Agriculture, Handbook Number 66, 2016, 559-561.
Silva CLM. Home Freezing of Fruits and Vegetables. In book: Frozen food science and technology, 2008.
Barth M, et al. Microbiological Spoilage of Fruits and Vegetables. In: W.H. Sperber, M.P. Doyle (eds.), Compendium of the Microbiological Spoilage of Foods and Beverages, Food Microbiology and Food Safety, Springer, 2010.