Dear Readers: STRAWBERRIES are delicious, and I love them for a sweet treat after a meal. Of course they go in cereal, smoothies, ice cream and salads. However, here are some “very berry” hints for you:

* After being picked, strawberries will NOT ripen any further. Buy them as red as possible, because any white, nonripe part will not ripen and turn red later.

* Plan to use them within one to two days.

* Do NOT rinse berries until you are ready to use them. Rinse under cold running water, but do NOT soak them. Then dry on paper towels.

* Store in the refrigerator in the package they came in, loosely covered with either paper towels or plastic wrap. I layer them between paper towels to help prevent mold and keep them fresh a few days longer.

-- Heloise

P.S.: Overripe strawberries? Smash with a fork and use on toast or waffles.

SEND A GREAT HINT TO:

Heloise

P.O. Box 795000

San Antonio, TX 78279-5000

Fax: 210-HELOISE

E-mail: Heloise@Heloise.com

LEFTOVER STORAGE

Dear Heloise: For years, I have put small bits of tomato paste, bruschetta sauce, pesto or canned pumpkin in an ice-cube tray. After it is frozen, I pop out the cubes and store them in a freezer container, separating the layers of cubes with wax paper. A plastic box is better than a freezer bag because it keeps the cubes from getting smashed.

A cube or two of canned pumpkin is great to add to a pot of vegetable soup or beef stew. It gives the liquid a beautiful color and adds a nice, subtle taste. -- Virginia L. in San Antonio

LOW-SALT HINT

Dear Readers: Watching your salt (sodium) intake? Here’s a fun hint to help! Take table salt and mix it with a few drops of food coloring (I use blue) in a bowl to change the color. Put the “colored” salt in the saltshaker you most often use. Now, when you add salt to the dish you are about to eat, you will be able to clearly see how much you’re adding. -- Heloise

CUTTING PIE

Dear Heloise: This is a hint for cutting that first piece of store-bought pie that is in an aluminum pan. First, slice the pie into the number of pieces you want. Next, take scissors and cut the pie tin down on each side of the first piece you want out. Bend the cut tin down and use a thin spatula to remove the first piece. Now you can get under the rest of the pieces easily. -- Helen R., Austin, Minn.

NO-SLIP SERVICE

Dear Heloise: When using a cutting board, lay a paper towel on the counter and put a few drops of water in the center of the towel. This will keep your cutting board from slipping, and you can throw the paper towel away when the juice of what you are cutting creeps under the board. -- Andrew W., Lexington, Ky.

CROUTON ALTERNATIVE

Dear Heloise: If you don’t have croutons and want something salty or crunchy to top your salad, crumble some potato chips and sprinkle them on top. -- Lori, via e-mail

Send a hint to Heloise, P.O. Box 795000, San Antonio, Tex. 78279-5000, fax it to 210-HELOISE or e-mail it to Heloise@Heloise.com. Please include your city and state.

2012, King Features Syndicate