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Do a Few Moldy Strawberries Ruin the Whole Pint? Here’s How to Keep Your Fruit Safe

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When it comes to Major Summer Disappointments, moldy strawberries rank right up there with rainy beach days or a scoop of ice cream that drops off your cone. But while you can’t control the weather or recoup your spilled dessert, you can usually salvage some (or most!) of your fruit. And in some cases, it’s even possible to avoid the sad scenario completely.

You read that right. Eating berries that have actual mold on them is definitely a bad idea (and a pretty nasty tasting one at that). But just because a few of your fruits have grown a green or blue blanket doesn’t mean that you necessarily have to throw the entire box in the trash, experts say.

That said, you should take a few quick precautions to make sure the rest of your produce haul is safe. Here’s how to handle moldy strawberries and other summer fruit, plus what you can do to reduce the chance of running into fuzz altogether.

What is mold—and why is it always showing up on my berries?

Food molds are microscopic fungi that live on plants and animals. To the naked eye, it looks like white, green, or blue fuzz. But if you were to examine mold under a microscope, you’d see skinny, mushroom-like structures with thread-like stalks and spores that form on top, according to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). The spores are what you see with your eyes, and the stalks or roots are the non-visible parts underneath.

Mold reproduces when spores float through the air and land on a moist surface (like foods, wet leaves, a damp wall, or a shower curtain). If you’ve ever gone a little too long in between fridge clean-outs, you’ve probably learned that mold can grow on pretty much any food. But strawberries and other berries are particularly prone to the stuff. That’s because they’re loaded with the nutrients mold loves and needs to grow.

“Berries are generally high in moisture and sugar content, which are two things that mold needs to thrive,” Gretchen Wall, MS, director of food safety and quality for the International Fresh Produce Association, tells SELF.

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The fact that berries are soft and bruise easily makes them even more inviting to mold. “Any time produce becomes damaged, it may leak sugars and provide an opportunity for an organism that wants to grow,” Wall says. YUM.

And once mold makes its way onto one berry, it can spread to others nearby easily. Because mold spores are airborne, they can float from one berry to the next—though you won’t see it until the thread-like stalks burrow deep into the fruit and sprout fresh stalks, and then eventually, the visible spores on top of them. “It’s like dandelion seeds that blow across a field and then, all of the sudden, you have all of these dandelions popping up,” Wall explains.

Can I cut mold off a strawberry and eat the rest?

It’s best to discard moldy berries. Even though a berry with a tiny bit of mold might look totally fine once you cut away the fuzzy patch, the thread-like strands that you can’t see may have invaded the rest of the fruit, Nicole McGeehan, MPH, CHES, Penn State Extension food safety and quality educator, tells SELF. (Cutting mold off foods like hard cheese or firm veggies like carrots or cabbage is OK. But softer foods like berries can still be contaminated with mold below the surface, even if you cut away the visible part, per the USDA.)

Source: Self

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