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On the counter or in the fridge? Here’s the best place to store summer fruit

Peaches

  • How to know when they’re ripe: “Peaches can be deceptive. Sometimes, even though they feel and smell ripe, when you bite into it there is a lack of flavor and an odd texture,” notes Samuels. “The first sign of a perfectly ripened peach is the color. They should be more of a deep gold color and not as red. Another way to tell if a peach is truly ripe is to look at the skin; if it is shriveled or wrinkled around the stem end of the peach, it is perfectly ripe and ready to eat. Also, contrary to other fruits, the texture of the peach will be soft to very soft when it’s ready to eat.”
  • How to store: “Unripe peaches should be left on the counter at room temperature until they are ripe. Ripe peaches can be stored in the refrigerator for two to three days, but they are best when eaten right away. If you store a ripe peach in the refrigerator for too long, it becomes dehydrated and that changes the texture of the flesh inside. If you can’t get to all your peaches at their peak ripeness, the best thing to do is freeze them.”
  • How to enjoy when they’re overripe: “Peel and slice and freeze on a baking sheet before transferring to a plastic bag (to avoid clumping). These frozen peach slices are very versatile and can be used in anything from smoothies to cobblers and pies.”

Strawberries

  • How to know when they’re ripe: “Ripe strawberries are totally red in color. They also emit a sweet smell.”
  • How to store: “Strawberries can be stored in the refrigerator for three to seven days,” says Samuels. “It’s best not to wash them all at once, and only do so before you’re ready to eat. Washing them all at once will shorten their shelf life.”
  • How to enjoy when they’re overripe: “Aside from using them in baked goods such as pies, tarts and muffins, you can also use overripe strawberries to make jams and jellies, strawberry ice cream or sorbet, and strawberry butter (combine strawberries with softened butter in a blender),” says Samuels. “You can even dry the strawberries for a healthy version of a fruit snack (place in the oven at 225 for two to three hours, or place in a dehydrator).”

Cherries

  • How to know when they’re ripe: “Cherries can vary in color from deep red to yellow to pink; when the fullest [color] expression of the cherry is evident, they are ready to eat. Ripe cherries should also feel firm,” notes Samuels.
  • How to store: Samuels recommends storing cherries in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for about one week.
  • How to enjoy when they’re overripe: “Overripe cherries can be used to make pies, jams or cherry juice,” Samuels suggests. “You can also use them as a sauce for cheesecake, or create jams and jellies.”

Blueberries

  • How to know when they’re ripe: “Blueberries do not ripen after harvest, so they must be ripe when purchased,” notes Samuels. “Ripe blueberries are all blue; there is no redness in them. The chalky white coating should also be present: this is a natural protector for the fruit. Avoid blueberries at the store that have been exposed to misters.”
  • How to store: “Blueberries should not be washed prior to storage. Only wash them right before eating, because the water on the surface speeds up degradation,” says Samuels. “Blueberries last longest when stored in a bowl and covered with plastic wrap in the refrigerator for about two weeks.”
  • How to enjoy when they’re overripe: “Blueberries that are a little past their prime are perfect for freezing and can stay frozen for up to a year. You can also can or jar them, or make them into a sauce,” says Samuels.

Raspberries

  • How to know when they’re ripe: “Raspberries are ripe when they have a bright vibrant color (whether they are of the red or golden variety). They should also be nice and firm in texture,” says Samuels. “Avoid purchasing raspberries that are dented or bruised or mushy — these are most likely past their prime and on the way to spoilage. Also, be sure you are purchasing berries that have not been exposed to moisture. You can check the bottom of the container to make sure there is no dampness or mold.”
  • How to store: “Store raspberries in the fridge in a breathable container (they typically are purchased in a container with slats at the bottom). Do not store them in a crisper because the air may be more humid, which is damaging to raspberries,” explains Samuels. “They will keep for about two to three days in the refrigerator.”
  • How to enjoy when they’re overripe: Samuels suggests using overripe raspberries in baking: “Of course pies and cobblers are delicious), but you can also use them in brownies, or with other chocolatey delights,” she says.

Clean each fruit and disinfect the fridge

Certainly the last thing anyone wants is to get sick, so be sure to wash your fruit well no matter how thick its rind, and keep it separate from other types of food (especially meat) if storing in the fridge.

“The refrigerator fruit and vegetable compartments are actually among the germiest places in the kitchen,” says Lisa Yakas, senior product manager and a microbiologist at NSF International, a global public health and safety organization. “So, if you are going to keep your fruits in the refrigerator, make sure [it] has been properly cleaned and disinfected first.”

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