Strawberries should definitely be bought when they are in season from a farmers market (or a u-pick), if you want the best flavor.
Finding the freshest strawberries
Once strawberries are picked, they will no longer get sweeter or develop more flavor. But farmers often pick them before they've developed full flavor for several (valid) reasons:
- Strawberries sit on the ground, so they are susceptible to rot and need to be picked before that happens
- If a big rain is expected, they will pick the berries beforehand to avoid spoilage
- They don't ship well when fully ripe - they can be hard to transport, even to a farmers market
- Fully ripe berries don't store for very long, often only a few days
While they won't develop flavor after being picked, they will turn from white to red. This makes it very difficult to know what quality you're buying, even during peak strawberry season.
U-pick, farmers markets, and grocery stores
To buy the best berries, go to a U-Pick (a farm that lets the pubic pick fruit and pay for it before leaving). Since strawberries grow well in every climate, you should have good chances of finding one. PickYouOwn.org has a list by state.
The next best option is the farmers market, which usually let you taste the fruit.
If you are buying them from a supermarket, look for fully red berries. White on the shoulders lets you know they were definitely picked too early to develop an intense flavor. Also give them a good sniff and make sure they smell like strawberries.
How to store
If picked fully ripe, they will only last a few days. Store them on top of a paper towel-lined plate or tray to absorb moisture, and put them in the fridge.
If bought from a grocery store, they might last up to a week in the fridge.
What do to when strawberries have no flavor
If you happen to get home and find the berries aren't very flavorful, they are still useful:
- As a syrup for ice cream
- Pureed into a quick bread
- Blended into a strawberry margarita
When are strawberries in season?
- In mild climates, strawberry season lasts from April through September or even October.
- In hot climates in the southern states they can start as early as February or March and last until early or mid-summer.
- In the cooler northern climates they are in season in May or June and last through July or August.
- See what else is in season at the same time: April, May, June, July, August, and September.
There are no shortage of strawberry recipes, which makes sense considering it's grown in every US state. From classics like strawberry shortcake to unique twists like strawberry BBQ sauce, this seasonal collection covers them all.