Strawberries are a universally popular fruit. Not only are they delicious in their natural state, they also make great additions to salads, desserts and even cocktails. According to Strawberries.com, there are over 20 named species of strawberry plants, and the U.S. produces more strawberries than any other country in the world. Considering many grocery stores import their fruit from locations that are thousands of miles away, strawberry consumers must learn to recognize freshness.
Consider the color and cap. When strawberries are fresh and ripe they will be a bright red color and have fresh green leaves for caps. When the green caps are removed, cells in the berry are torn and an enzyme is released that destroys vitamin C. Therefore, choose berries where the cap is intact for freshness.
Inspect for texture and moisture content. Fresh strawberries will have firm skin and be dry. If strawberries are quite soft or mushy then they are overripe and no longer fresh.
Avoid mold. Always check a strawberry package and the strawberries inside thoroughly for signs of mold. A single moldy berry generally means that mold spores will have moved throughout the package and other berries will be infected.
Examine where the fruit originated. The location where the strawberries were picked greatly influences their level of freshness at the time of purchase. Choose locally-grown strawberries. Better yet, pick the strawberries personally from a local grower to essentially ensure freshness. Some fruit in the U.S. comes all the way from New Zealand; therefore, it may be days or even weeks from the time that the strawberry is picked to its consumption.
Check out the frozen strawberries. Fruit begins to lose important nutrients and enzymes immediately after it is harvested. Therefore, strawberries that travel long distances and then sit on grocery store shelves may be significantly less fresh than their frozen counterparts. Frozen strawberries can maintain a high quality for 8 to 12 months and thus may be a better option than some so-called fresh strawberries.
Seek them in the spring. Strawberries are the first fruit to ripen in the spring, so this is a good time to purchase them for freshness. Strawberries purchased later may have been picked after their peak freshness or they may have been at the grocery store for a longer period of time.