Save surplus berries for later use
This season's berry bounty may be more than some consumers can use quickly, but there are some tricks to being able to enjoy the fruit later in the year, said Rosemary Rodibaugh, professor and nutrition specialist for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.
"Unless food is preserved in some manner, it begins to spoil soon after it is harvested and strawberries are no exception," she said.
Spoilage can be caused by microorganisms such as bacteria, yeast or molds. Damage can also be wrought by chemical changes caused by enzymes in the produce.
Freezing, drying and canning are three ways to ensure the berries can be enjoyed later in the year.
--Freezing is one of the easiest and least time-consuming ways to preserve food at home. Freezing doesn't sterilize food. The extreme cold simply slows growth of microorganisms and slows down changes that affect quality or cause spoilage in food. Properly frozen fruits will retain much of their fresh flavor and nutritive value. Their texture may be somewhat softer than that of fresh fruit.
--Canning is another method of preserving food. During the canning process foods are heated long enough and at a high enough temperature to destroy spoilage organisms. The heating also stops the action of enzymes that can spoil food quality. "It's important to follow safe, tested procedures when canning food to ensure its safety," Rodibaugh said. "Your county Extension office provide you with information on safe canning methods for foods that can well."
--Fruits also can be preserved by making them into jelly, jam and preserves. These products must also be canned, frozen or refrigerated to prevent microorganisms from growing on them.
--Drying is one of the oldest methods of preserving foods for later use. Removing the moisture from the food prevents the growth of microorganisms that can spoil food, Rodibaugh said.
To learn more about food preservation, visit www.arfamilies.org/health_nutrition/food_preservation.htm or contact your county Extension office.
For more information about nutrition and handling strawberries once they're home, see the Arkansas Fresh fact sheet about strawberries at www.uaex.edu/Other_Areas/publications/PDF/FCS507.pdf.