Are your tomatoes starting to look not so good? Let us help you know what you can do to salvage them and when it's time to just toss them out. Can putting them in the fridge extend their shelf life?
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Maybe they are sitting on the counter right now as we speak. Almost ready to go bad or already gathering mold. What could you have done to prevent this horrible fate?
Should you have put them in the fridge? That is actually a really good question.
Let's start by looking at the source of where you go for the tomatoes and that most likely is the grocery store.
❓ Are You Supposed to Refrigerate Tomatoes?
Years ago I learned from Alton Brown that putting tomatoes in the fridge was a no-no. The reason being that the flavor of the tomato will forever be changed once they have go below a certain temperature. Alton says that
If they drop below 50 degrees a flavor compound called (Z)-3-dexenal is just going to flip itself off like a chemical switch ... permanently.Alton Brown, Good Eats, Season 6, Tomato Envy
Here is the thing. When I worked at a grocery store, all the produce arrived on the same refrigerated truck. Which means the tomatoes were on that truck and have already been exposed to the cold temperatures.
In my opinion this doesn't matter for grocery store tomatoes, since they already have been chilled. If you buy them from a farmer's market or pick them from your garden I would really avoid the fridge at all costs.
⌛ How Long Do They Last on the Counter?
This is really hard to say for sure. It depends on how ripe they were to begin with. Best I can offer here is an average. Most times when I am storing tomatoes at home, I have them for 7 days before I begin to worry about them going bad. Sometimes it's less and sometimes more. It's best to store your tomatoes in an area where you won't forget about them. You don't need to use them the moment you get home.
🥶 When to Refrigerate
We established that most grocery store tomatoes have probably already been chilled to too cold a temperature to remain at best flavor. But when should they go in your own cold storage?
You really don't wat to refrigerate unripe tomatoes. The fridge will stop the ripening process dead in it's tracks.
If your tomatoes are starting to get soft to the point where fruit flies are finding them, then you need to act fast. Overripe tomatoes should be put in the fridge at this point. It is better than keeping them out. If you see any cracks in the skin of the fruit definitely refrigerate or use immediately.
I wouldn't put tomatoes in the fridge until you really need to. Try to store them in a place out of direct sunlight that isn't too warm or too cold.
If you only use half of a tomato then always refrigerate the other half, wrapped in plastic wrap or in an airtight container. Try to use that other half the next day if you can or at least within 3 days.
I have not found that refrigerating the tomato will effect whether you have a juicy tomato or not. That depends more on the variety of the tomato. Beefsteak style tomatoes will be the juiciest.
📅 How Long Will They Keep in the Fridge
Depending on what conditions they were in when you put them in the fridge, I would say a tomato that is showing some wear you probably could easily 3-5 days out of use. Probably even a week.
If you are going to eat them raw, I would bring them out of the fridge before doing so. A room temperature tomato will have more flavor.
To answer our original question, tomatoes will indeed keep longer in the fridge. This is a way to extend their shelf life, but not a way to "preserve flavor".
🍅 How to Ripen
If you find your tomatoes are too hard to be good, then you can use a paper bag to help the tomatoes ripen up faster. The gas the tomato naturally gives off will be trapped inside the paper bag which will help the fruit softer and juicier quicker. Add a banana to the bag to further speed up the process.
If a tomato was picked green it will still "ripen" in the sense that it will turn red and get softer, but it will never have a truly good tomato flavor.
Never store tomatoes in a plastic bag. If you bring them home in one remove the tomatoes as soon as you get home. Water will collect in the bags and that could rot the tomatoes. You want to give them air to breathe. You don't want that problem with a paper bag. The only time I would keep tomatoes in a Ziploc or plastic bag is if I was storing them in the freezer.
🍾 Wine Fridge for Tomatoes
Do you own a wine fridge? This would be a great place to store tomatoes. You could set it for 50-55 degrees, which is the optimal temperature for storing to tomatoes to allow them to last longer.
Make sure you have a tray in there so the tomatoes are sitting on a flat surface in a single layer.
If you grow your own tomatoes this might be a worth while investment. It could be used for other veggie as well.
🤢 Mold or Black Spots
If I see any fuzzy mold on my tomatoes I toss them. Not worth keeping at that point. Or if they are so deflated that look like a popped balloon. The mold I see growing is most of the time white in color.
If I cut open a tomato and find that it is black on inside (usually around the center), then I usually just cut off the black and try to salvage as much as I can of the tomato. Usually I am making tomato sauce so I don't care about the appearance of the tomato and I am not eating it raw. I actually can't stand raw tomatoes, it's true!
🍒 What About Cherry Tomatoes?
I have not conducted any scientific experiments on this, but in general I do find that cherry or grape tomatoes seem to last longer in general than full sized tomatoes. It could be because the skin to guts (for a lack of a better word) ratio is different with the smaller sized tomatoes. There is more skin.
When it comes to cherry tomatoes follow the same rules of refrigeration that we already discussed.
If your cherry tomatoes are getting pass their peak you can make a tomato soup in the Instant Pot that is really good and easy to make.
👀 Related Posts
Here some other blog posts you will want to read.
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