Do Strawberries Ripen After Picking? [Ripening Myths Busted]

Strawberries only ripen while still growing on the strawberry plant. Once they’re picked, strawberries stop ripening. For the best flavor, always wait until your strawberries are bright red and shiny before harvesting. In your garden, look for ripening strawberry fruit from spring through late summer. These months are peak strawberry season.

Do strawberries ripen after picking?

When Should Strawberries Be Picked?

Pick strawberries only when the fruit is completely red, without any white or green coloration. When checking strawberries in your garden for ripeness, make sure to turn the fruit to look at it from different angles before you pick them. Sometimes, a strawberry can look ripe from one side, but will still be white on another side.

A small ripe strawberry growing on a strawberry plant in an outdoor garden.
Pick your strawberries when they have turned red on all sides.

Strawberries are fast growers that can produce a lot of fruit. Your first berries will begin to ripen in May. The harvest can continue as late as September, so check your strawberry plants daily throughout the summer.

What Color are Ripe Strawberries?

Ripe strawberries are red and often have a “shiny” appearance. This shiny appearance lets you know that your berry has reached peak flavor. Unripe strawberries can appear to have a green or white color. Unripe strawberries will taste tart or sour.

Closeup of a white bowl full of ripe strawberries
Ripe strawberries are red, shiny, and don’t have any white areas.

If your strawberries still have green or white on them, but are mostly red, wait one more day before picking. It’s better to pick a slightly overripe strawberry than an underripe berry. Just make sure to protect your plants from animals that eat strawberries, so your harvest isn’t ruined.

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How Do You Ripen Strawberries Quickly?

Unfortunately, the only way to ripen strawberries quickly is to keep your strawberry plant healthy and well-nourished. There is no way to artificially speed up strawberry ripening. Here are the best ways to ensure your plant will grow an abundant batch of strawberries quickly:

  • Plant strawberry plants in sandy, well-draining soil that is mildly acidic (5.5–7 pH).
  • Use this berry fertilizer to ensure the soil has plenty of nutrients. 
  • Keep the top 1 inch (2.5 cm) of soil consistently moist.
  • Strawberry plants grow best in full sun.
  • Prune stray runners (little vines that curl away from the main plant).

If you follow all these tips, you’ll have abundant strawberries during peak season. This will ensure ripe fruit for harvesting as quickly as possible.

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Will Strawberries Ripen in a Paper Bag?

Strawberries will not ripen in a paper bag. The paper bag method is a well-known way to ripen some citrus fruits, mangoes, and avocados. This trick works for some fruit ripening because of exogenous ethylene (a ripening gas released by some fruit). However, strawberries do not react to ethylene gas unless they are still attached to their plant.

An irrigated raised garden bed full of strawberry plants in a backyard garden with other plants
Since strawberries won’t ripen in a paper bag, let them develop on the plant until they’re ripe.

No matter how long you leave strawberries in a paper bag, they will stay unripe and never lose their green color. Whether you bought your berries from the store or picked them off your own plants, they won’t get any more ripe once they’re picked.

Can You Leave Strawberries Out to Ripen?

Leaving unripe strawberries out to ripen will just result in them rotting within a few days. During this time, the strawberries won’t become any riper or sweeter. Instead, they’re likely to become mushy and moldy.

A small white bowl filled with blueberries and strawberries.
Like blueberries and most other berries, strawberries won’t ripen after they’ve been picked.

The only way to get your strawberry fruit ripe is to leave it on the plant until it is ripe. Only a few fruits like bananas can continue to ripen after being picked. Most berries stop ripening once they’ve been harvested.

Can You Ripen Picked Strawberries?

Here are the key things to remember about trying to ripen strawberries after they’ve been picked:

  • Strawberries that have already been picked will not ripen.
  • Harvesting strawberries should only be done once the fruit is fully ripe.
  • Ripe strawberries are red with no white or green spots.
  • Strawberry season runs from late May to early September.
  • You cannot ripen strawberries in a paper bag or by leaving them out.
  • The only way to ripen strawberries is on the plant.
  • Take good care of your strawberry plant to ensure a bountiful harvest that ripens quickly.

Many articles will try to convince you that there are ways to ripen unripe strawberries. However, these articles are mistaken. The only way to ripen your strawberries is on the vine. Be sure to allow your strawberries to ripen fully before picking. This ensures you harvest delicious fruit from your garden.

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