Why does sugar make cut strawberries juicy?

If you leave out cut strawberries, their juice will come out leaving a small pool of it in the bottom of the bowl and the strawberries seem to be juicier.
This effect is accelerated when sugar is sprinkled over the strawberries, for some reason - more juice collects in the bottom of the bowl, indicating that it’s not just more perceived juiciness.
Why does this happen?

Two things I can think of: one, the sugar crystals have sharp bits like ice crystals, and will cut the cell membranes of the strawberries, releasing more juice than escapes from the knife-cut membranes alone.

Two, the effect of osmosis. Remember back in biology class - a high concentration solution on one side and a low on the other means water will move to the side of the higher concentration solution to even things out? There’s much more sucrose on the outside of the strawberries, and the water (juice), moves out of the permeable membranes to even out the sugar solution in and out of the berry.

If you let it sit so long that the concentration of sugar gets lower outside, the water will rush back *into *the strawberries, carrying some of those sugar molecules with it, and you’ll have sweeter strawberries - this is why canned syruped strawberries are sweeter than fresh cut, even if you rinse off all the syrup. This is also the theory behind brining meats - get a bunch of the water to rush OUT of the meat by putting it in a sugar/salt water solution, and then get it to rush back IN, carrying seasonings with it.

Yep, WhyNot’s hit it on the head. Osmosis – the internal moisture of the berries is “pulled out” by the sugar. It’s called maceration, you’ll often hear chefs refer to it when making jams or jellies.

On a gross yet interesting note, maceration is also the term used for

letting flesh rot from the bone to achieve a clean skeleton. Yum!

This is also the same process by which salt kills slugs. Just like the sugar pulls the moisture out from the inside of the strawberries, the salt pulls moisture out from the inside of the slug.

The technical term is that sugar is hygroscopic which means that it will pull water from the surrounding environment if given a chance.

AB covered this on the 10pm Good Eats last night- He said what others above wrote, and I think he incorrectly added something about sugar making the outside of the berry more dense than the outside? Probably made that part up.

Can I assume salt also does this to things?

When I make tzatziki sauce, for instance, I dice a cucumber, and then salt it, and it seems to get water out of the cukes.

Yep. Salt is also used for eggplant, for the same reason.

Wee Bairn, thanks for the heads up! I wasn’t home last night, so AB is waiting patiently on my dvr for me. At the moment, I have no idea what the density thing’s about, but he does have a way of making things make sense. Not that he always right - I did hear him talk about “carmelizing” meat once! Bad AB!