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At long last it has dropped out of the triple digits where I live in LA. Joy of joys and knock on wood. In the markets, berries of all kinds are starting to inch up in price as the season slowly comes to a close. And before another year goes by I need to tell you a little secret on longevity for those berries in your fridge.

I am notorious for buying a pound of strawberries and then forgetting I bought them as they get pushed to the back of the fridge, until I find a plastic clamshell of mold a week later. Two years ago, I stumbled upon a great tip that applies to many fruit and veggie treats. Vinegar.

Now, before I go shopping (if I’m planning on buying strawberries, etc.), I fill a large stainless steel or plastic mixing bowl (aka, non-reactive) with a cool water vinegar bath. Five parts water and one part plain old run-of-the-mill white vinegar. Upon arrival home, I open the box of berries and dump them all in the vinegar bath, giving them a quick swirl with my hand.

They get to enjoy the “spa treatment” while I put away the groceries. This usually takes  5-10 min. or so since I clean the fridge out at the same time. Then I place a colander in another bowl, dumping everything from the first into it. Lift the colander with strawbs out and drain, saving the vinegar bath in the second bowl (more on this part later). Gently rinse the berries and let drain.

Place an old, clean tea towel or paper towels on a cookie sheet with sides, carefully dump berries onto it. Let air dry a few minutes. Try to give them each a little “personal space” as the moisture evaporates.

Once the excess moisture is gone I lay out another old tea towel (so I don’t get annoyed at any berry stains) on the counter and transfer strawberries, again allowing a little space between each. Leave a 1-2 inch flap at one end of the towel and use that to begin creating your tea-towel-strawberry “jelly roll”. As always, handle gently so as not to squish the fruit.

Once your roll is complete, carefully coil it and slide into a zip lock type bag (gallon size). I’ve stored some for up to nine days with little loss of flavor. Apparently the vinegar holds bacteria at bay. When ready to use, I rinse in a colander and core them.

So far this has worked with blueberries and black berries. Haven’t tried it with raspberries since they’re so delicate. Plus, they usually don’t last more than a day before I’ve inhaled them!

I keep the vinegar bath, by the way and reuse it on any other produce I purchased. For example, recently bought a bag of pre-chopped Romaine from TJ’s to bring to a pot-luck. Something came up, I couldn’t go and I knew I wouldn’t get to use it for several days. As you know, pre-cut Romaine dries and browns fairly quickly. So I tossed the contents into the vinegar bath after the strawberries and followed the same process.

Guess what? Five days later, Romaine, fresh as a daisy! It also works on those bags of assorted leaf lettuce that seem to turn to slime so quickly. Oh, I do toss lettuces in the spinner before rolling in the towel for storage.

So there you have a little tip that I picked up from another blogger about two years ago. Unfortunately I can’t credit her since my iMac croaked over a year ago and took all info with it. So whoever you are, thank you! You’ve saved my produce and me from myself!

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