Picking, storing & preserving strawberries


As a horticulture student I mainly studied crops and cultivation techniques. It fascinates me how many diverse plants can grow from small, nearly identical seeds.

Favourite fruit: blueberries, grapes, raspberries, pears
Favourite vegetables: mushrooms, peppers, kohlrabi, onions, garlic

When is the right time to pick strawberries in the garden? And what is the best way to store and preserve them after harvesting? Find out everything about how to pick, preserve and store homegrown strawberries.

picking strawberries in the garden
To be able to pick homegrown strawberries, you must plant them in good time

Strawberries (Fragaria) have long been considered a garden classic. But did you know that the strawberry picking season is already determined when you select the variety and plant it? Read on to learn all about the strawberry season, when to pick strawberries as well as storage and preservation.

Picking strawberries

The harvest time mainly depends on the variety you have chosen. It is important to note that strawberries do not ripen after they have been picked – so the ripeness at harvest time is crucial.

When to pick strawberries

Strawberries ripen at different times depending on the strawberry variety, with most varieties ripening around June. Early varieties can bear ripe strawberries as early as May, depending on the weather, while late varieties can bear strawberries as late as September. Certain varieties, called everbearing strawberries, can bear fruit several times, meaning you can pick strawberries throughout the year.

Ripe and unripe strawberries on the plant
Depending on the variety, strawberries ripen at different times [Photo: Anettphoto/ Shutterstock.com]

With the use of cold-stored bare root strawberries, also called frigo plants, the harvest date can be determined much more precisely, because they ripen about 8 weeks after planting the strawberries. Bare root plants are especially popular in commercial growing due to better harvest time planning.

A brief note on the harvesting time of strawberries:

  • A distinction is made between early, medium-early, and late ripening strawberry varieties and between June-bearing and everbearing strawberry varieties.
  • Depending on the variety, they are harvested from May until the end of August or even early September.
  • With a good combination of early and late ripening varieties, you can pick strawberries throughout the season.
  • Bare root plants already bear ripe strawberries about 8 weeks after planting, depending on the weather.

How to pick strawberries

Since strawberries do not ripen after harvesting, a white spot-on a harvested strawberry will not turn red even after a few days. Only pick strawberries that are completely red – only then will they develop their wonderful aroma and sweetness. To only pick fully ripe strawberries, it is best to check the plants about two to three times a week. Ripe strawberries can be recognised not only by their colouring but also by their plump fruit and smooth skin that gives slightly when pressed with a finger. Overripe strawberries are usually a little wrinkled and come off the stem very easily. When you harvest strawberries, remove overripe and diseased fruits, and discard them if necessary.

Unripe strawberry with white section
Strawberries do not ripen after picking – make sure you only pick ripe strawberries [Photo: Satakorn/ Shutterstock.com]

How to store and preserve strawberries

If you do not want to eat the strawberries immediately after picking, harvest them in the morning. The fruits are cooler and can be stored better this way. The shelf life is also increased if you leave the stem on the fruit. Unfortunately, it is only possible to store strawberries to a limited extent. As they are very delicate fruits, they do not keep very long when fresh.

Many varieties grown in commercial orchards have been selected for their shelf life. As a result, strawberries from the supermarket usually keep quite well for two to three days in the refrigerator.

Most hobby gardeners, on the other hand, grow varieties chosen for flavour rather than shelf life. After picking, strawberries should not be stored for more than two days, otherwise the tasty fruits will lose much of their flavour and their consistency will deteriorate considerably.

Strawberries can also be made into strawberry liqueur, syrup, or juice, as well as dried using a dehydrator.

Tip: Making strawberry jam or compote is a tried and true approach to preserve strawberries for a longer amount of time. After something different to pure strawberry jam? Why not combine strawberries with other berries or rhubarb (Rheum rhabarbarum)?

Jars of strawberry jam and rhubarb
Make strawberry jam to preserve them [Photo: Rimma Bondarenko/ Shutterstock.com]

Storing strawberries in the fridge

To store strawberries, put them in the fridge. Place the strawberries in shallow trays so that the fruits do not sit on top of each other. If possible, place the fruit in the vegetable compartment rather than the coolest compartment of the refrigerator.

The best way to freeze strawberries

A major problem when freezing strawberries and other watery fruits is that they are mushy when thawed. This can be avoided to a large extent if you freeze the fruits individually rather than in a large container. After washing and patting dry, place the fruit on a plate, board, or tray. Make sure that the fruits do not touch. Place the plate in the freezer for two hours. Now that the strawberries are sufficiently frozen, transfer them to a container or freezer bag. Then place them back in the freezer. Defrost frozen strawberries and eat immediately. Consume within eight months.

Depending on the purpose for which you are freezing strawberries, they can be pureed and then frozen in ice cube trays for easy portioning or in containers. Likewise, you can make strawberry ice cream directly after picking them.

Tip: Put whole strawberries in an ice cube tray and fill with water. In summer, these strawberry ice cubes are then the perfect addition to soft drinks and cocktails.

Strawberries frozen in ice cubes
Strawberry ice cubes make a great addition to soft drinks [Photo: Photograph/ Shutterstock.com]

Strawberry nutrients

Strawberries are not only delicious, but they are also nutritious. Strawberries contain vitamins C, B1, and B2, as well as minerals such as calcium, iron, and magnesium. Folic acid is also present in reasonably high concentrations; this vitamin is essential for cell development. Strawberries are low in calories despite their abundant nutrients because they are composed of approximately 90% water.

Sliced strawberries and lemons
Strawberries contain more vitamin C per 100 grams than lemons [Photo: graletta/ Shutterstock.com]

What do strawberries taste like? Depending on the variety, strawberries sometimes taste fruity-sweet and sometimes less sweet. Strawberries that are picked before they are fully ripe can also have a slightly sour taste.

After a successful strawberry harvest, it is important to fertilise the plants promptly. Find out why this is necessary, as well as more tips on fertilising strawberries in our other article.

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