Have you ever come across strawberries that are white on the inside? This can be a baffling moment for anyone who thinks of strawberries as bright red, with a slightly pinker center.
Some strawberries are naturally white on the inside, and this is nothing to worry about. In other cases, it may indicate that the strawberry has been picked too early and has not yet finished ripening inside. Both should be safe to eat, but be wary of strawberries with white mold.
In this article, you’ll learn about what causes white patches in a strawberry’s core, and how to check whether a strawberry is still okay to eat.
Why Are Strawberries White Inside?
There are a few different reasons that a strawberry could be ripe on the inside, and it’s important to figure out which you’re dealing with. Some will mean that your strawberry is perfectly good to eat, but the appearance of white mold is a sure sign that the fruit needs to be thrown away. The reasons for whiteness include:
- The variety of the strawberry: some cultivars are bred to have white or very pale centers, and of course, these are fine to eat
- It has not been allowed to finish ripening before it was picked: this won’t make it unsafe to eat, but it will have a negative effect on the taste and texture
- It has white mold inside because the outer skin has been damaged
It can sometimes be difficult to tell the difference between a strawberry variety that is supposed to be white on the inside, and a strawberry that has simply been picked too early and is therefore going to be sour. The taste is often the only way to tell; if the strawberry is sweet, it’s ripe, regardless of its color.
If you are growing and harvesting your own strawberries, make sure you know whether you should be picking ones that are fully red inside, or whether they will stay white. You can do this by checking what sort of cultivar you have grown, and this will make the harvesting process much easier.
Why Are Some Strawberries “Naturally” White Inside?
Some strawberries are white inside because they have mutated, and the mutation has been taken and deliberately bred by growers because it looks interesting and makes the fruits more likely to sell. In some cases, white strawberries have other desirable traits, like size or firmness, which makes shipping easier.
The redness of strawberries is due to a gene known as Fra, and this gene can be suppressed or clearly expressed. In strawberries with a suppressed gene, the color will be less bright, or even white instead of red or pink.
These strawberries will never turn red, no matter how long you let them ripen, but they still have a good flavor. You will need to use their firmness and their smell to determine when they are ready to pick. They should be just slightly squishy, with a fruity aroma. If they are hard or have little smell, they aren’t yet ripe.
Strawberries that are intended to have white centers are perfectly safe to eat.
Why Are Strawberries Picked Too Early?
Many growers pick strawberries before they are ready because this means that they can ship them more easily. Strawberries go off very quickly after they have ripened because they are wet fruits and they have very thin skins – making them vulnerable to many different kinds of mold.
If the strawberries are picked ripe, the growers have just days to get them to the supermarket and get them sold, or the crop will be wasted. This tends to be unrealistic, so instead, many growers pick the strawberries before they are ripe and then chill them to further slow the ripening process while they are shipped.
They can then be displayed when they are ripe or almost ripe, and little fruit will be wasted, even if the strawberries have to travel a long way to reach their destination. However, if the grower misjudges how ripe the strawberry is, it may get picked even earlier than intended, and this can lead to unripe strawberries in your shopping cart.
Alternatively, if the strawberry is kept too cold for too long, it may not have ripened as expected, and may therefore still be white inside when you buy it. These unripe strawberries are perfectly safe to eat, but they will often be tasteless because the fruit won’t have produced its ripening sugars.
How Do You Know If A Strawberry Is Moldy?
You can tell if a strawberry is moldy by inspecting it closely. Mold often grows on the outside of a strawberry first, but it can appear on the inside too, so you may find it when you cut the strawberry open.
Usually, strawberries that have gone moldy will have an overly sweet, almost alcoholic scent. They tend to be distinctly mushier than fresh strawberries, and will probably spill juices everywhere when you touch them. It isn’t usually too difficult to differentiate between these and the bright, firm flesh of most strawberries.
If a strawberry has got white mold growing inside, this is likely due to damage to the external skin, letting the mold get inside. Regardless, the strawberry will need to be thrown away, because it won’t be safe to eat. Eating it could give you a stomach ache or even food poisoning, depending on what kind of mold has formed.
If a strawberry seems unusually wet or mushy, it’s best to throw it away, rather than trying to eat it. You can cut it open to check whether the inside is moldy, but it’s usually safer to compost it and buy fresh strawberries.
There are many varieties of strawberries that have a naturally white inside, so if the strawberry tastes sweet, it is probably ripe and good to eat. If the flesh is firm but sour, the strawberry has probably been picked too early. It will still be safe to eat, but won’t taste as nice. Strawberries with white mold should be thrown away.