If you want to keep tomatoes fresh, with the original taste and texture, avoid the refrigerator as much as you can! Keep them on the countertop! We also have some suggestions for those moments you have no choice but to put them in the fridge.
If you have a vegetable garden you don’t have to worry about how to keep tomatoes fresh. It’s easy: just pick as many fruits as you need for the dish that you’re making. But what can you do when you go to the market just once or twice a week to buy vegetables and you don’t eat or cook them right away? You have to learn how to store them.
The best way to keep tomatoes fresh has become a controversy. Most people say that you should definitely avoid the fridge. But some are more relaxed and always use the vegetable drawer. So what’s the best way to store tomatoes and keep them fresh for a longer time?
Why you shouldn’t store them in the refrigerator
Despite what you used to think about storing tomatoes, they should be kept out of the fridge! A study from the French National Institute for Agricultural Research, published on US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, proved that refrigeration stops the production of new aromas and deteriorates the existing ones.
The research was conducted in 2013 and studied the impact of domestic storage conditions on volatile compounds. The researchers used two storage options (68 degrees F/20 degrees C and 39 degrees F/4 degrees C) and two cultivars. After 30 days at 39 degrees F/4 degrees C, the concentration of volatiles had decreased by 66 percent. Meanwhile, when tomatoes were kept at 68 degrees F/20 degrees C, they not only maintained existing volatiles, they actually continued to produce more.
The research team also found that tomatoes that had lost aroma production over six days of storage at 39 degrees F/4 degrees C can be “persuaded” to recover some of it thanks to 24 hours of storage at 68 degrees F/20 degrees C.
Furthermore, keeping a tomato below 50 degrees F/10 degrees C makes it soft, spongy, and flavorless. In other words, storing tomatoes at fridge temperature, even for short time frames, was detrimental to their aroma.
How to keep tomatoes fresh
The best place to store tomatoes is, indeed, on the countertop, at room temperature. Keep them in a single layer to prevent bruising! They actually continue to develop flavor until maturation peaks a few days after picking.
Still, if you have bought too many tomatoes and you must put them in the refrigerator for many days, try letting them sit out at room temperature for a full day before eating them. That way, some of the enzymes will re-activate and boost the flavor back up.
So, if you must refrigerate them, there are still some things you can do to minimize the damage, like eating them cooked instead of fresh. Tomatoes kept in the fridge for a week might not be suitable for a salad, but they're still a tasty addition to a sauce, a soup, or a curry.