A Hot Water Bath Will Make Your Fresh Berries Last Way Longer

Berries are fickle little things. The moment you bring them home from the store, farmers market, or you-pick berry farm, it's already too late. You'll blink, and suddenly there will be tufts of white mold creeping all over the surface of your berries. It's a frustration all too many of us have faced and has us all wondering why berries spoil so quickly and if there is any surefire way to prevent it. 

The reason berries spoil so quickly is that because their skin is so thin and porous, moisture will very easily cling to it. And where there is excessive moisture, mold is soon to follow. Mold spores exist in the air we breathe. For example, the stuff we see on the rinds of cheeses or the tips of our strawberries are mold spores that have clung to and rapidly reproduced across the surface. And unfortunately, most berries will go moldy within 48 hours of picking. 

Thankfully, there is a solution, and all you need to do is to give your berries a bath. You're probably thinking that you already wash them thoroughly and dry them before storing them away; however, in this case, a cold rinse is not enough. Instead, submering your berries in a quick, hot water bath is going to make a world of difference. This method was developed by New York Times writer Harold McGee in 2009 and works for a variety of berries, from blackberries to raspberries. 

A nice hot bath prevents moldy growth on your berries

Before putting them in hot water, remove the berries from their container and separate them on a paper towel, making sure they're not touching each other, and allow them to air dry. As this happens, bring some water up to temperature. For strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries, you'll want a temperature of 125 degrees Fahrenheit, while for blueberries, you can kick it up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. When the water reaches the required temperature, give each berry a 30-second bath, then lay them back out to dry and cool. This simple trick will extend the lives of your berries by weeks. 

So, how is it that berries, which seem so delicate, can withstand such high heat without falling apart? And how does it prevent spoilage? Remember that berries thrive in the sun. Their internal temperature in direct sunlight is just as hot as the temperature they will reach during their brief bath. Also, you're not boiling them for an extended period of time, so they won't turn to mush. As for preventing spoilage, the heat from the water will kill off any mold growth present on the surface of the fruit.

Is it worth the effort to avoid the frustration of fast spoilage? McGee found this method to yield a mold-to-no-mold ratio of about 1:30, which just goes to show a good hot bath goes a long way.