On October 12 2021, a Facebook account shared a tip which claimed that putting fruit in Mason jars made it last longer:
Idk who needs to know this because it took me 25 years and a TikTok to learn but putting your fruit in mason jars rather than the containers they are stored in at the time of purchasing is a HALLELUJAH for me ???? I tried it after I saw it and will never go back, it keeps the fruit fresh foreverrrrrr.
The girl who started the trend reached out, her insta is Www.instagram.com/thecrosslegacy …
Included alongside the post was a photograph of refrigerated fruit in jars:
Between October 12 and 15 2021, the post racked up more than half a million shares. It alluded to a TikTok post, possible a viral May 2021 post by user @stephgigliotti28:
@stephgigliotti28Fresh fruit hack! ???? #kitchenhacks #kitchentips♬ Taste It – Ikson
The short clip said in part:
” … if you put your fruit (like strawberries) in a glass jar in your refrigerator they stay fresh for two to three weeks … weeks!”
Instagram user @thecrosslegacy (whose Instagram bio included the hashtag #strawberriesinajar) was also referenced in the post. In September 2021, that account shared one of many posts about storing strawberries in jars:
View this post on Instagram
In the text of that Instagram post, however, they added that the “rest of the instructions for the viral hack can be found on my blog www.thecrosslegacy.com/keeping-berries-fresh-for-weeks.” The Facebook post only mentioned storing fruit in a jar, not any additional instructions.
We visited the blog post, which was dated after the TikTok embedded above was published, and the “rest of the instructions” were not insignificant:
When I get home with berries either from the store or produce stand, I put the berries in a large bowl of water and a glug of white vinegar. I hardly measure anything, I get it from my Grandma Branch, but it is about a 1/4 cup of white vinegar to your bowl of cool water.
Soak the berries for 3-5 minutes; if it is much longer they can get mushy. Next, I swish around my hands in the water to mix up the berries and try to grab any leaves or debris that floats to the top. Then I rinse the berries with cold water in a strainer or colander and check for additional dirt that might need a little rub.
To start, the purported originator of the “fruit in Mason jars” hack did not advise their followers to simply “store fruit in jars,” but rather to soak the berries in a bowl of water with some white vinegar. The instructions further entailed agitating the berries as they soaked, rinsing them with cold water, and laying them out to dry completely — factors which likely affected the longevity of fragile fruits and berries.
Another step described as important by the blog’s author involved inspecting each piece of fruit to ensure none were moldy or otherwise damaged; later on, a very thorough drying process was explained:
This step, I feel, is a key to my success that I just passed over before I started canning and food preservation. As I am laying that fruit out to dry, I go handful by handful and check over each piece making sure I didn’t miss any stems or bad fruit.
Making sure the fruit is dry is so important! First, I lay the fruit out on towels on the counter. I have a large bath size towel that is perfect for berries that might stain my kitchen towels. Then, I let them sit out for a couple of hours and rotate the fruit around to get dry on all sides. If I run out of time that evening, I will put the fruit on plates and put it in the fridge overnight to finish the process.
Later, the blog post mentioned “Mason jars in all sizes and pyrex glass containers” as part of the process, not just “Mason jars”; “Mason jars” seemed to become shorthand for “airtight glass containers.” The author added:
Finally, I put a folded up paper towel to collect the moisture on some items; this is a must for berries and salad greens. Then I gently place the fruit in the container and put the lid on.
Of initial note is that the advice to “store food in Mason jars” might have been slightly misleading, as the longevity of stored fruit as described by @thecrosslegacy was far more involved than simply putting it in a jar. Readers (particularly those investing in Mason jars for storage) would have been better served with more detailed instructions, but it would be difficult to fit all of that content into a TikTok video or shareable short Facebook post — and the idea that simply decanting fruit into jars and forgetting about it was more attractive than a soaking, drying, and inspection process.
As is very frequently the case with viral claims on TikTok and Facebook, news organizations and tabloids reported the “fruit in a Mason jar” hack with no additional examination. Newsweek, The Sun, The Mirror, and the Daily Mail all produced articles about the “brilliant” berry tip, without corroborating the claims in any fashion and largely reproducing the comments section:
One person who admitted that they stopped strawberries because of how quickly they go bad was eager to give this hack a go.
Another person who revealed they did the same, shared the tip: “Place a folded napkin on the bottom and the top and it’ll absorb all the moisture so they don’t get soggy.”
A third person added: “It also helps if you soak them in vinegar and water for 20 seconds then rinse them off and dry them! Learned on TikTok, keeps them fresh way longer.”
In 2020, the website Food52 directly contradicted the “fruit in a Mason jar” hack. In “A Trick for Storing Berries to Keep ‘Em Fresher, Longer,” the site advised storing berries in a “sealable container lined with paper towels and leave the lid partially open to avoid trapping moisture.”
A general July 2021 food storage explainer from the Academy of Culinary Nutrition partly echoed the more detailed version of the the berry storage “hack”:
Store in an airtight container in the fridge, with a towel underneath to absorb extra moisture. Be sure to remove any soft or moldy berries before you store them. Wash just before eating. Some berries, like strawberries and raspberries, can be quite delicate so it’s best to eat them within 1-2 days of buying them.
That indicated that an “airtight container” (like a Mason jar) could extend the lifespan of berries. Although ACN advised washing them just prior to eating, advice to wash and thoroughly dry the berries before sealing them in a jar or other airtight container was not dissimilar.
A University of California Agriculture document [PDF] on storing strawberries advised using a partially open container to “maintain high humidity.” But a FreshHarvestGA.com page, “How to Store Produce,” recommended an airtight container (and refraining from washing until you’re ready to consume them):
Berries: Place in a shallow, airtight container with a paper towel in the bottom to absorb excess moisture. Store in the fridge for up to a week.
- Don’t forget, they’re fragile! When storing be careful not to stack too many high, a single layer if possible.
- Immediately discard any soft or over-ripe berries. They will cause nearby berries to spoil faster.
- Only wash when you are ready to eat them.
- To freeze: wash berries and pat dry, and store in an airtight container in the freezer.
Roughly similar advice was provided by the University of Connecticut Agriculture Extension (and the University of Maine and Oregon State [PDF]), but the airtightness of the container was not addressed:
Before storing berries, remove any spoiled or crushed fruits. Store unwashed in plastic bags or containers. Do not remove green tops from strawberries before storing. Wash gently under cool running water before using.
A December 2020 EverydayHealth.com produce storage piece took a completely different approach. Unlike the spate of news articles predicated on the viral TikTok video, EverydayHealth.com consulted food safety experts:
Problem: Moldy Berries
Solution: Soak briefly in hot water and dry before refrigerating.
Particularly in winter months, berries can be a pricy investment, so it’s important to make sure you’re not losing any. Even in the summer, when they’re in high season, you want to make the most of these sweet treats. Although some people use a vinegar bath for berries, [dietitian Bonnie Nasar, RDN] says that can leave a taste residue even when rinsed, and it’s actually not necessary. Simply giving the berries a hot-water bath of about 12 seconds can inhibit mold growth, previous research has found.
Another important step is letting berries dry completely before storing them in the fridge, adds Janilyn Hutchings, a certified food safety professional and food scientist at StateFoodSafety, an Orem, Utah–based food safety certification and training program for the hospitality industry. That can prevent mold, keeping your berries fresher longer, she says.
A 2013 advisory from Michigan State University MSU Extension addressed a few of the fruits seen in the Facebook photograph:
Berries will last longer if kept in a refrigerator at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, they will also have better flavor if they are consumed within three days of purchase. They should be washed in cold, running water just before eating. Cherries can be handled in this same manner. Grapes will taste best within the first few days of purchasing, but can be kept in the refrigerator up to two weeks. Citrus fruits, oranges, grape fruits, lemons and limes can be stored for a few weeks at room temperature, but last longer if stored in the refrigerator.
At the height of the “fruit in Mason jars” TikTok frenzy in June 2021, cooking site TheKitchn tested several strawberry storage methods, among them the Mason jar method. In “We Tried 7 Methods for Storing Berries and the Winner Outlasted Them All,” “Storing Method: Stored in an airtight glass jar” ranked fourth of the seven methods (with three other methods deemed more effective):
Storing Method: Stored in an airtight glass jar.
- Spoilage: About 30% of the berries
- Rating: 6/10
About this method: One method I had seen a handful of experts suggest is storing fresh strawberries in an airtight glass jar (like a Mason jar). You just place your unwashed strawberries straight into the jar, screw the lid on, and pop it in the fridge. Some sources claim this method would keep the berries fresh for up to two weeks (!), so I was excited to give it a try.
Results: By the end of the week only a third of the strawberries showed any signs of spoilage. The airtight jar seemed to keep the berries much fresher than storing them on an uncovered sheet pan. The strawberries towards the bottom of the jar seemed to spoil the quickest, probably because they were bearing the weight of the other berries on top of them, but they overall stayed quite fresh.
My takeaway: Although the berries were a bit hard to get in and out of the jar, this method worked surprisingly well. It kept the berries relatively fresh, but was a bit of a pain. The jar couldn’t hold an entire pint of strawberries, so although it was successful, the method is not that practical.
A viral Facebook post claiming that storing fruit in Mason jars “keeps the fruit fresh foreverrrrrr” was shared a quarter million times in three days — likely due in part to social media’s fondness for Mason jars. The poster cited an unnamed TikTok video and Instagram user @thecrosslegacy as a source for the advice. However, @thecrosslegacy did not simply advise storing “fruit in a jar,” but rather described a multi-step process for prolonging the shelf life of strawberries in particular.
The virality of the TikTok post led to a number of news reiterations, but expert advice on berries in airtight containers was divided. In any event, the “fruit in a jar” hack seemed to work best when fruit was placed in the jar when completely dry, when all bruised or moldy berries were hand-picked out, and possibly when paper towel squares were added to collect moisture.