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.
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 the tomatoes and that most likely is the grocery store.
Grocery Store 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, sine 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.
We established that most grocery store tomatoes have probably already been chilled to too cold a temperature to remain at peak flavor (and probably picked too soon for that anyway but that's a whole 'nother story).
When to Refrigerate
If your tomatoes are starting to get soft to the point where fruit flies are finding them, then you need to act fast. Putting them in the fridge at this point is better than keeping them out for sure. If you see any cracks in the tomatoes 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.
How Long Will They Keep in the Fridge
Depending on what condition 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 to room temperature before doing so.
To answer our original question, tomatoes will indeed keep longer in the fridge.
Wine Fridge Hack
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.
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 that point. Or if they are so deflated that look like a popped ballon.
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 or Grape 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.
How to Tell if Tomato Paste is Bad?
I wanted to take some time to talk about that half empty can of tomato paste you have sitting in the back of your fridge. How long does it keep?
Once you have opened the can it depends on if you were able to keep other food from getting into it when you were making whatever meal. That can shorten it's life.
If the paste has any off smell, is moldy, or seems to be watery, then I would toss it out.
I would say to use it up within 5 days of opening. It would be better if you could freeze it instead.
Alton Brown recommended place the whole can in the freezer. Then when you need some, squeeze it out of the can and put it back in the freezer. You squeeze it out like a push pop frozen treat. Then cover it the opening by placing the whole thing into a resealable bag.
If you buy a tube of tomato paste, once open and use some, freeze the tube. You may have to cut off the end to easily get the paste out when it's frozen.
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