Tomatoes are one of the most versatile and widely used vegetables around the world. They can be found in almost every salad, sandwich, pizza, pasta, and sauce. But there is a long-standing debate among food enthusiasts and scientists about whether or not to keep tomatoes in the fridge. Some say that tomatoes should always be stored in the refrigerator, while others argue that they taste better when kept at room temperature. So what is the truth? Let’s find out!
The Pros and Cons of Refrigerating Tomatoes
The first thing to understand is that refrigeration affects the taste and texture of tomatoes. When tomatoes are exposed to temperatures below 55°F, their texture starts to change, becoming mealy or mushy. This is because low temperatures break down the membranes and cell walls of the tomato, causing moisture to escape and turning them into a sad version of their former selves.
On the other hand, refrigeration can also preserve the tomatoes’ freshness and prevent them from rotting or spoiling quickly. Tomatoes that are not in a refrigerator or other cool place will ripen more quickly, affecting the taste and texture of the fruit. If you live in a hot and humid climate, you may want to consider refrigerating your tomatoes to extend their shelf life and avoid spoilage.
So, Should You Refrigerate Your Tomatoes?
If you are wondering whether or not to refrigerate your tomatoes, the answer is… it depends. There are different types of tomatoes, each with its own optimal storage temperature and humidity level. Here are a few examples:
Hothouse or Vine-Ripened Tomatoes
Hothouse tomatoes, also known as greenhouse tomatoes or vine-ripened tomatoes, are grown in a controlled environment and are less fragile than other types of tomatoes. These tomatoes are usually sold in plastic containers and can be stored in the fridge for up to a week without affecting their flavor or texture. However, many people prefer to keep hothouse tomatoes at room temperature to enjoy their natural sweetness and aroma.
Cherry or Grape Tomatoes
Cherry tomatoes and grape tomatoes are mini versions of the classic tomato and are often used in salads, skewers, and as a snack. These tomatoes have a high sugar content and are best stored at room temperature to maintain their firmness and sweetness. If you place cherry tomatoes in the fridge, they may become more watery and lose their flavor.
Roma or Plum Tomatoes
Roma or plum tomatoes are meatier and denser than other types of tomatoes and are often used in sauces, stews, and canning. These tomatoes can be stored in the fridge, but it is not recommended as they tend to lose their flavor and become mushy. Plum tomatoes are best stored at room temperature in a cool, dry place.
How to Store Tomatoes Properly
Now that you know whether or not to refrigerate your tomatoes, let’s talk about how to store them properly.
First, choose high-quality tomatoes
When shopping for tomatoes, make sure that they are firm and smooth, with no bruises or soft spots. Look for tomatoes that are slightly soft to the touch but not mushy. Smell the tomatoes to check if they have a sweet and fresh aroma, which is a sign of ripeness and flavor.
Keep your tomatoes out of direct sunlight
Tomatoes are sensitive to heat and light, so it is best to store them in a cool and dark place. You can keep them in a pantry, a cupboard, or a fruit basket away from direct sunlight. Avoid storing tomatoes near fruits that release ethylene gas, such as bananas and avocados, as it can cause the tomato to ripen faster.
Store your tomatoes stem-down
When storing tomatoes, it is best to keep them stem-down to prevent moisture from entering the tomato and causing it to rot. If you have a lot of tomatoes, you can also layer them on a paper towel or a clean kitchen towel to absorb any excess moisture.
Avoid storing tomatoes in plastic bags
While it may be tempting to store your tomatoes in a plastic bag to keep them fresh, this can actually accelerate the ripening process and cause the tomatoes to become mushy. Instead, store your tomatoes in a paper bag or a breathable container to allow for air circulation.
FAQs: Your Tomato Questions Answered
If you are still uncertain about how to store your tomatoes, here are some common questions and their answers:
- Q: Can you freeze tomatoes?
- A: Yes, you can freeze tomatoes for up to 12 months. However, they will lose some of their flavor and texture when thawed, so it is best to use them in soups, stews, or sauces instead of eating them fresh.
- Q: How long do tomatoes last in the fridge?
- A: It depends on the type and quality of the tomato, but most refrigerated tomatoes can last up to a week. Just make sure to check them regularly for signs of spoilage, such as discoloration, mold, or a bad smell.
- Q: Can you wash tomatoes before storing them?
- A: It is not recommended to wash your tomatoes before storing them, as excess moisture can cause them to spoil faster. Instead, wash them right before you use them, and dry them thoroughly with a clean towel.
- Q: Do tomatoes need air to ripen?
- A: Yes, tomatoes need air to ripen properly. That’s why it’s important to store them in a breathable container, such as a paper bag or a basket.
- Q: Can you store tomatoes with other fruits and vegetables?
- A: It is generally not recommended to store tomatoes with other fruits and vegetables, especially ethylene-producing ones like bananas and avocados, as they can affect the ripening process of the tomatoes. Instead, store your tomatoes separately.
So, are tomatoes supposed to be refrigerated? The answer is that it depends on the type of tomato, your personal preference, and the temperature and humidity of your environment. In general, it is best to store your tomatoes at room temperature in a cool and dark place, away from direct sunlight and ethylene-producing fruits. If you want to extend their shelf life, you can refrigerate them, but beware that they may lose some of their flavor and become mealy or mushy. The key is to choose high-quality tomatoes, handle them with care, and enjoy them fresh!
- National Center for Home Food Preservation. (2021). Freezing Tomatoes. https://nchfp.uga.edu/how/freeze/tomato.html
- United States Department of Agriculture. (2021). Tomatoes. https://www.ams.usda.gov/grades-standards/tomatoes
- University of Illinois Extension. (n.d.). Tomatoes. https://extension.illinois.edu/veggies/tomatoes.cfm
- Washington State University. (n.d.). Storing Tomatoes. https://extension.wsu.edu/maritimefruit/files/2014/08/Storing-Tomatoes.pdf