The best strawberries are the ones you pick yourself or buy from your local strawberry farm. These berries will be the freshest you can get, with little or no handling and travel. Nothing beats the flavor and fragrance of fresh-picked strawberries!

Picking
Pick by pinching the stem of the berry between your thumb and forefinger. This will prevent damage to both the fruit and the strawberry plant. Leaving the caps on helps your strawberries last longer. When selecting berries look for the ones that are plump, firm, and well colored. These are the best for all your needs–freezing, preserving, or eating just the way they are.

Storing
Strawberries are best when prepared and eaten in the same day, but if you must keep them longer, store them in your refrigerator. Arrange the berries in a shallow container, separating out any damaged berries. Cover them loosely, and keep at 35 degrees for best results. Do not remove the caps or wash the berries until you are ready to use them. When caps are removed before use, the berries lose some of their moisture. Washing early tends to bruise them and the berries lose their freshness.

Preparing
When preparing (for whatever use), place the berries in a strainer and rinse with cool water. To remove the caps, give the caps a gentle twist or use the point of a sharp knife, trying not to remove any of the berry. The tip of an ordinary vegetable peeler makes a good tool for capping berries.

Freezing
Whole berries: Place one layer of clean, capped berries on a cookie sheet and freeze until firm. Remove from cookie sheet, package in freezer bags, and seal.

Packing with sugar: Slice berries in halves or thirds. Mix with sugar (six cups sliced fruit to one cup sugar). Allow to stand until sugar dissolves (about 10-15 minutes). Pack the fruit and juice into freezer bags or containers. Leave 1/4-inch head space for pint containers.

Packing without sugar: Strawberries may also be packed whole or sliced without sugar or with minimal sugar, but the color and texture of the thawed fruit won’t be as good.

Good for kids: Let kids cap and pack their choice of berries into pint yogurt containers, put their names on them, and freeze. For a quick, nutritious snack, thaw container slightly in the microwave and let kids eat their partially frozen berries straight from the container.