How To Store Tomatoes: All You Need To Know

How To Store Tomatoes

Are you sick and tired of buying fresh, juicy tomatoes only to have them spoil, rot, or taste bland in as little as a few days after you’ve purchased them?

If so, I know exactly how you feel. Believe me, I’ve been there!

The Problem:

There’s nothing more frustrating than good food going to waste, especially knowing the money you’ve spent on your tomatoes has now gone down the drain. And to make matters worse, you often only discover your tomatoes have spoiled right in the middle of preparing a meal.

The big problem is, if you’ve been keeping your tomatoes like I did in the past and the way most people still do, you’re doing the one thing that can harm your tomatoes the most. Over the years, I’ve seen too many of my tomatoes waste away too quickly, and it wasn’t until I finally educated myself and learned the tips and tricks which I will share with you shortly, did I notice a significant improvement in the lifespan of my tomatoes. Since then, they stay fresh, juicy and delicious for quite a long time. Let me show you how I do this…

 

What Not To Do:

Did you know that storing your tomatoes in a refrigerator will cause them to spoil, lose their flavor and become spongy in texture? The theory is, a cold environment will halt the tomato’s flavor producing enzyme activity, and they suffer what they call ‘altered volatile synthesis’ and ‘transient changes in DNA methylation.’ This is just a fancy way of saying that the genetic chemistry that gives the fruit its flavor has deactivated, and the change is irreversible even after the tomato has been brought back to room temperature.

A tasty tomato is made up of a complex composition of acids, sugars, and chemicals, and it’s necessary for 30 or more of these chemicals to be in the right balance for a tomato to taste just right.

The temperature inside your fridge should be around 35°F (or 2°C), and storing your tomatoes even below 55°F (13°C) will cause flavor loss, and the texture of the fruit will become spongy. This one thing is the single biggest mistake most people make as we’ve been trained to believe that all fruits and vegetables need to live in the fridge, when in the case of tomatoes, the opposite is true.

There’s only one situation where I recommend you store your tomatoes in the refrigerator, which I will share with you shortly.

What Should You Do Instead?

I recommend storing your tomatoes at room temperature instead of in the refrigerator. However, this is where most people get caught out because ‘room temperature’ varies from house to house, and location to location. In some houses, room temperatures can get up to 100°F (38°C), which is far too high. The best temperature at which to keep your tomatoes is in the 55 to 70°F (13 to 21°C) range, which is warmer than your fridge’s temperature, but lower than the temperature in most rooms.

What’s The Best Way To Do This?

Ripe, fresh tomatoes should not be refrigerated and are best stored in a cool, dry environment, away from heat sources and direct sunlight. Places like wine cellars, basements, the back of pantries and the like often work well. Store ripe tomatoes in a box or bowl lined with paper towel or newspaper with the stems facing up.

Green, unripe tomatoes definitely shouldn’t be put in the refrigerator. It is best to store them in a single layer in a paper grocery bag or a cardboard box lined with paper, in the same cool, dry environment between 55 and 70°F (13 to 21°C), but this time with the stems facing down. A little trick to avoid bruising the delicate shoulders of the tomatoes when upside down, is to place them in a cardboard takeaway drink carrier, or alternatively, tape over the stem holes and place them the right way up in the box. Taping the stem serves two purposes – Firstly, it prevents moisture from leaving the tomato and secondly, it blocks air, mold, and bacteria from entering the fruit. Placing a ripe apple in the cardboard box or paper bag will speed up the ripening process if this is something you need to do.

Once the tomatoes become ripe, they can then be turned the right way up and stored with the other ripe tomatoes.

So, when is it okay to store tomatoes in the fridge? For un-ripe tomatoes – never, but if your tomatoes are ripe, you can get away with it. In cold environments like the fridge, under-ripe tomatoes suffer the most from the loss of enzyme producing activity. However, fully ripe tomatoes, while still susceptible to losing flavor and texture, will fare much better. Some of that flavor producing enzyme activity can actually come back if they are allowed to recover at room temperature for a day or two before eating. So if you must put ripe tomatoes in the fridge, just plan for some room temperature recovery time to regain some flavor.

If you have over-ripe tomatoes, indicated by soft, very red flesh, the procedure is a little different. Unlike green or ripe tomatoes, over-ripe tomatoes should be placed in the refrigerator for the sole benefit of preserving the tomato in its present condition for a few days longer. Place over-ripe tomatoes in a paper bag or plastic bag with a few slits cut in it and put them in the crisper in your fridge. When storing them this way, flavor loss will be minimal. However, I recommend not leaving them in there for any longer than three days. Before eating them, let them sit at room temperature for at least a couple of hours to allow them to regain some flavor.

Some Things To Keep In Mind:

Low-quality tomatoes cannot become good tomatoes, no matter how you store them. However, what I’ve found is that a tomato that is just okay but not great can actually benefit quite a bit from being left out at room temperature. And lastly, I’ve also found that tomatoes with less flesh and more seed-jelly are less likely to degrade as quickly.

Summary:

Don’t store your green or ripe tomatoes in the fridge, but rather in a paper bag or cardboard box lined with paper towel or newspaper, in a cool, but not cold environment, preferably between 55°F and 70°F, away from heat sources or direct sunlight. Green, unripe tomatoes should be stored stem side down in something like a cardboard drink carrier to prevent bruising, or alternatively, up the right way but with tape over the stem scar.

Ripe tomatoes should be stored stem side up. You can refrigerate ripe tomatoes if you need to, however, it’s wise to return them to room temperature for a day or two before eating to restore some flavor back into the fruit.

The only time you should store tomatoes in the fridge is when they are overripe, in a paper bag or plastic bag with slits cut in it, for the sole reason of preserving them in their current state for as long as possible before they turn bad.

Well, there you have it! Those are my top recommendations for keeping my tomatoes fresh, juicy and delicious. Stay tuned for more handy hints and nifty tricks!

1 Comment

  • June M

    Reply Reply January 5, 2017

    Didn’t know that you are to store unripe tomatoes stem side down. Interesting and helpful info on storing tomatoes

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