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May 2, 2008 08:14 AM

Storing cut tomatoes so they don't turn into weird, mushy things

One reason I tend to buy sandwiches out is the tomato issue. If I slice a tomato at home or work for a sandwich or veggie burger, the rest of the tomato has been a lost cause. I generally wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it and it loses it's texture significantly and is mushy even the next day. Any suggestions on a better way to store it after it's been sliced?

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  1. That's a tough one. I don't think there is an ideal solution.

    PS you should never refrigerate a tomato, even a cut one, at the peril of it's losing a lot of its flavor, assuming it had some to start with. I generally store a cut tomato on a saucer, cut side down, on the counter definitely never in the frig, but try to eat it within the same day. If the tomato is a good one, that's no burden.

    Another solution might be to start with grape tomatoes and just use however many you need for your sandwich. They generally have a better flavor than most tomatoes you can buy anyway. Just slice/chop 'em and put 'em on.

    3 Replies
    1. re: johnb

      I don't refrigerate them until they are cut and I find grape tomatoes to be too sugary sweet in general. If they are inexpensive enough (more and more a rarity), I'll get small Romas.

      1. re: Janet from Richmond

        But refrigerating them even after they are cut is just as bad. If I understand it correctly, once it goes below 54 F, the chemical that gives the tomato much of its good flavor is destroyed, and the taste is compromised.

      2. re: johnb

        We do the same thing with the saucer, or a dessert plate, on the counter but invert a custard dish over the tomato. We find the tomato will keep for 2 or 3 days, as long as we periodically use a slice or more to expose new surface as the mushiness and decay start at the cut face.

      3. I would agree with Johnb that this is a tough one.

        I would agree that the best solution would be to buy smaller tomatoes. Perhaps cocktail tomatoes?

        I never save cut tomatoes. I just eat whatever didn't fit in my sandwich straight, maybe with a bit of salt. I figure, more vegetable, more good. Of course, I have taken to popping a few cocktail tomatoes in my mouth as I pass by the bowl at any time of day. I figure it is a healthier snack than chips or Matzoh Crack, or whatever else is in the kitchen.

        10 Replies
        1. re: moh

          I try to use the whole tomato, though a cut tomato can be stored in the fridge in a zip loc as long as there is a napkin cradiling the uncut half. It absorbs the moisture in the bag and slows deterioration Just change the napkin daily.
          I also try to buy the smallest tomatoes still on vine. I separate them, leaving part of the vine on each one. I then wrap each one in a napkin and store them on the counter in a small plastic strainer. I think the perforations help to delay spoilage. They usually last 2-3 weeks unless they are 'nicked' in which case, they spoil a lot faster.

          1. re: Tay

            Tay, are you using a regular paper napkin to do this fridge/zip lock thing? Or cloth?

            1. re: moh

              Just a plain white paper napkin with no design. I do somethng similar with greens/salad. I loosely wrap them in paper towels and just change the paper towels when they get wet. I used to have to throw greens out after 2-3 days b/c they got 'mushy.'. Now they last for weeks! I buy a discount brand, club size box and I often reuse them, so it's pretty economical. Last night I used romaine that I 'wrapped' on 4/8 and it was perfecctly sweet and crisp. I don't know how long a tomato will last as I generally use within a day or two, whatever is left over, even if it's just to chop and toss in a Pita with some melted cheese.

              1. re: Tay

                Good to know! I like the paper towel trick for lettuce, but had no idea this could be extrapolated to tomatoes. Thanks Tay!

                1. re: moh

                  I hope it works as well for you. :-}

            2. re: Tay

              Tay that is how I keep my tomatoes after they are cut I also put them in a ziplock bag with a paper towel under the cut part. When I buy my tomatoes I always get the smallest bunch on the vine and they sit in my windowsill which isn't a sunny spot and they keep for a few weeks that way.Usually tho since I do buy the small tomatoes I can use up a whole one on a sandwich or in a salad. Make sure you buy firmer tomatoes skip over ones that have soft spots.

              1. re: Smileelisa

                I also buy smaller tomatoes for the same reason. I'd like to try the counter trick, but I live with Mr. Food Safety who won't leave ANYTHING on the counter. (When I first came to visit I found bananas in the fridge) If I want to bring something to room temperature before I use it, I have to hide it in my home office. Otherwise he will follow along behind me and put everything back in the fridge. I even dry my herbs in the office for the same reason.

                1. re: Cheflambo

                  " Mr Food Safety" lol! That's cute! My parents used to throw everything in the fridge, but not my grandparents.They always had a bowls of fruits,and veggies on the counter Once I did a little experimenting, I discovered that some things last a lot longer on the counter (in a non sunny spot). I think one of the factors in keeping tomatoes is preventing them from pressing on another tomato and by leaving the stem intact. Even if one of them begins to decay, the napkins absorb the fluids and make it easier to spot and remove a problem before it spreads to another tomato.I try to buy the vine on tomatoes even though the cost is greater, they are more flavorful and the stem seems to keep the tomatoes fresher for a longer time.

                  1. re: Cheflambo

                    I've always been perplexed by this so thanks for all the helpful tips! I am going to try the saucer technique...though I, too, live with Mr. Food Safety/Refuse to Touch Leftovers and I'm sure my nice Jersey tomato will have been transported to the fridge tomorrow morning.

                  2. re: Smileelisa

                    I actually don't cover the cut part of the tomato b/c I've found the paper towel will tend to "wick" away the moisture of the tomato, though if it works well for you, that's great. I 'cradle' the non cut part of the tomato in a napkin and then slip it into a zip bag, making sure to push out as much air as possible before I seal it. Sometimes, if the tomato is really big, I'll turn it cut side down onto a coated 6" paper dessert plate, but I'll still use the napkin to absorb the moisture that forms in the bag. If I don't use the rest the next day, I'll still change the napkin if it's at all damp or soggy. By the 3rd or 4th day, if I haven't used it, I'll dice it up and mix with some sesame ginger salad dressing (I like Ken's lite) or other acid based salad dressing and use it within the next day or so. I cannot recall the last time I threw out a tomato. :-}

              2. My wife and I are having a debate on whether it's better to wrap a cut tomato tightly, or wrap it loosely. Any thoughts?

                1 Reply
                1. re: gogunn

                  I have a gorgeous 1/2 tomato sitting on my counter right now. I used 1/2 of it for a BLT earlier today then wrapped it TIGHTLY in saran wrap for use in another BLT tomorrow. Hopefully the non refrigerated tightly wrapped out of the refrigerator combination will work.

                2. I've never gotten an edible tomato on a restaurant sandwich so for me there is not choice and I specifically request that they do not put tomato on my sandwich because it is always tasteless and mushy, even in the height of summer. Bottom line is, good fresh tomatoes are fragile and should be eaten when they are ripe. Like strawberries they don't hold well. I will cut some healthy slices off of a really good local tomato and make my sandwich and eat the rest of the tomato with some salt and pepper or in a salad the same day or use the rest the next day, leaving it unsliced and covered in plastic on the counter. I mean, really good tomatoes just don't sit around my house getting old and they beat the hell out of eating whatever any restaurant/carryout will put on a sandwich.

                  1. Place a paper towel over cut part, press down & place in small bowl.
                    Stats for a couple days.
                    Cut off a couple slices, follow same routine.