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Confession: refrigerating "forbidden" items

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A few weeks ago, I posted a query about onions that I kept on the counter sprouting and how to prevent this. More than a few people confessed that they refrigerate their onions, which I had never done before, but after finding out that quite a few people do that, I've started doing that, especially since the weather has been hot in this area and my apartment gets to over 100 degrees in the summer time.

Well, in the same vein, I feel like I'm going to get flamed or lectured at for confessing this, but I sometimes refrigerate tomatoes. Yes, I know they are supposed to be enjoyed room temp, and 80 percent of the time, I do this. I also know that the sugars turn to starch if you refrigerate them, so keeping them room temp keeps tomatoes sweeter. But when my apartment is over 100 degrees (as it was this weekend), I would sooner have an ice cold not-as-sweet tomato than one that is warm and fully sweet. So in this kind of weather, the tomatoes get refrigerated.

I keep them on the counter for as long as I can, and then the day of or before I plan to eat them, I stick them in the fridge.

Ok, thanks for letting me get my "crime" off my chest. Now I can go and enjoy my cold cold tomato salad guilt-free!

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  1. I have always refridgerated onions and sometimes tomatoes. When I was visiting my friend in Grenada, West Indies, EVERYTHING had to be refridgerated. There's bugs everywhere (they even survived microwaving lol). Bread, peanut butter, chips, you name it, it was in the fridge. The only things in the cabinets were canned goods.

    1. what an awful person, I don't wish you well.

      eh, I refrigerate (wrapped) if half-used, the only drawback I've really noticed is texture.

      consider that unless you bought your tomatoes local and/or organic they were picked green, boxed and gassed to artificially "ripen" a few weeks ago.

      1 Reply
      1. re: hill food

        Well, if it's half used, I put everything in the fridge, but I was talking about whole tomatoes (and now, onions, too, until it gets cooler again). I get my produce from the farmer's market, so I don't think they artificially gas them. Or at least I hope not.

        One of the stands I don't buy from anymore, b/c they once told me they put wax on their citrus fruit. I thought the whole point of getting stuff at the farmer's market was to reduce that sort of stuff. . ..

      2. Well, this is sure to draw frowns but I have chopped onions and put them in glass jars in the fridge for my kids who are cooking for themselves. A couple of them are inclined to take the very easiest way out in the kitchen and I want to encourage them to cook at home. They are more inclined to throw something together if the ingredients are ready to go. Frankly, I don't think it has had a negative impact on their results.
        When I don't use the whole onion I wrap and refrigerate it. If I'm not using them raw in a recipe I don't think it matters much.

        omg carey24, bugs survive the microwave? Tough bugs!

        2 Replies
        1. re: fern

          anzu, you actually listen to what people, ANY people, tell you to do? Or feel guilty if they tell you not to do things and then you do them anyway?

          Bah. Phui.

          I refrigerate everything. Everything.

          Have been doing so for eons. Couldn't care less what anyone tells me to the contrary. I live for the contrary.

          The food is fine. So am I.

          Rock on, anzu.

          1. re: fern

            fern, i do that with chopped onions, too. keep them in a little glass jar in freezer. easy to toss into sautes, tuna salad, you name it! makes it so easy when i don't want to chop onions!

          2. If I know that I'm not going to be eating tomatoes for a few days, I also refrigerate them because I don't want them to go bad. If I'm chopping a lot of onions, I refrigerate them as well so it won't make my eyes tear.

            1. At my house, it is only my husband and I. We live in a rural area pretty far from a food store. So things don't go to waste, I refrigerate everything - tomatoes, bread, apples, onions, sweet potatoes, etc.

              In regards to warm temperatures, I had the little gnats that appear everywhere in the summertime if I leave produce out - particularly bananas.

              1 Reply
              1. re: JenBoes

                I believe those little gnats you refer to are fruit flies. The easiest way to deal with them is a non-toxic product from Safer that's a little hollow cardboard wedge-shaped contraption with a sticky interior and a dose of bug attractant. Works like a charm for us!

              2. I live in the South and no mater how spotless my house is, we get the occasional roach or attack of sugar ants. EVERYTHING goes in the fridge. Bread, open cereal boxes, chips, crackers. Once the package has been opened, it goes in one of the fridge. All fruits and veggies.

                1. I refrigerate my hot sauces.

                  I always leave whole tomatoes, onions, garlic, etc. out of the fridge. Once cut I do put these items in the fridge. I run my tomatoes under cold water for a minute or so, and this brings slightly chills them, but then again my house is held at around 72 degrees year round with a/c, and heat.

                  1. As hill food correctly points out re. tomatoes, ALL fruits and vegetables you buy "fresh", including most "farmer's market" items, have already been refrigerated and kept for considerable amounts of time at near freezing temperatures. Not to speak of ethylene et al. gassing procedures. As far as "crime against freshness" goes, you're OK.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: RicRios

                      My farmer's market farm kept its tomatoes no lower than 60F, and you could tell when they removed things from the truck first thing in the morning that they were not refrigerated fully like other produce.

                      I never refrigerate raw tomatoes. I'd rather cook them or toss them.

                      1. re: Karl S

                        i think most farmers market farms do the same, Karl S. the farmers rely on superior taste and texture to sell their product and get repeat customers whom they come face to face with. they wouldn't go to the effort of growing a product to wreck it at the last moment. i don't know what the "farmer's market" "farms" do, though.

                        and i was just at the produce warehouse again & looked through the tomatoes in the--tomato room(!), which is held at a warmer temp and higher humidity than the refrigerated rooms where carrots, celery, beans, asparagus etc. are stored, and the the potatoes, cucumbers etc. are held in the same room with the tomatoes. this is an organic produce warehouse, so as Hill Food correctly points out these veg were picked when ripe, & not treated with ethylene, but these foods have certainly never been held close to freezing. the onions? the onions *are* refrigerated in the warehouse, and they are refrigerated in pro kitchens-- an onion won't make you cry so hard if it's cold, and it will last longer w/o sprouting.

                        refrigerating onions is all good. i wouldn't refrigerate real tomatoes, but there is probably no real harm in refrigerating commercial tomatoes.

                        1. re: soupkitten

                          Refrigerating tomatoes halts the ripening process. Your call as to if or when to stick them in the fridge.

                    2. I don't think it's "forbidden" to refrigerate onions. They keep longer in the fridge, the flavor doesn't suffer, plus you get the added benefit of them being less tear-inducing. Although my mom never refrigerated onions, ever since somebody posted on this board that cold onions made you cry less when chopping them, I've refrigerated them and never looked back.

                      I refrigerate most fruit, except bananas, tomatoes and avocados, and the tomatoes and avocados I refrigerate after they've been cut (i.e. if I only used half the tomato or avocado). Apples actually benefit from refrigeration. They stay crisper and keep MUCH longer than if you don't refrigerate.

                      7 Replies
                      1. re: DanaB

                        I'm guilty of refrigerating bananas when trying to keep them slightly unripe. We're not fans of overly ripe bananas and they go from OK to brown very quickly. The outer skin gets yuckky-looking in the fridge but the interior stays at the under-ripe stage.

                        Since I live in the desert, many items that do not usually need refrigeration go into my refrigerator, especially during the summer as we try to keep the thermostat in a reasonable range - only about thirty degrees cooler than the outdoors 115 that we're currently experiencing. Hot sauce, soy sauce, mustards, flour, catsup, eggs, maple syrup, grapes, tortillas -- I even keep the good olive oil in there for the summer.

                        1. re: Sherri

                          I say do what works best for you.

                          My tomatoes, onions, potatoes, and bread all go in the fridge since they last longer. I started doing this in college when I didn't have a car, and so did whatever was needed to minimize trips to the grocery store. My food tastes great to me. And you'd be surprised how long bread can last in the fridge.

                          Just for argument's sake, consider this: in some countries eggs are not pasteurised nor are they refrigerated. People buy a few eggs at a time and get more fresh ones as they need them. Can you imagine not refrigerating eggs in the US? Maybe there are folks who don't, but don't let the USDA find out :)

                          1. re: caliking

                            A lot of bakeries do not refrigerate their eggs. They go through them quickly and they work better in recipes when room temp.

                            1. re: caliking

                              caliking, bread lives in the freezer here. Lasts a good long time and I have a selection of several different kinds. In the cooler months, I bake our bread and try to have a loaf for us and one for the freezer to get me through the summer.

                              I buy my eggs from "The Chicken Lady" and do not refrigerate them in cool weather. They sit on the counter in an antique egg basket inspiring me to ignore all the cholesterol hysteria and use them frequently. It's a wonder we don't all have feathers! Never have to worry about the "bring eggs to room temperature" business either, they're already there.

                              When I lived on the Chesepeake Bay, we'd sail for a week or so at a time. No refrigerator aboard, just a cooler. I used to wrap eggs in tissue paper and put them in a small hammock. They'd neither crack nor spoil. Yes, these were non-grocery store eggs - they came from an Amish farmer.

                              1. re: caliking

                                Eggs from local poultry farms are often displayed unrefrigerated. Just-laid eggs have a coating that prevents bacteria from getting in. This is washed off during processing of supermarket eggs. I refrigerate my local-sourced eggs when I get them home, but have been buying the unrefrigerated eggs for many years without a problem. Matter of fact, once, when I went during holiday season they were sold out, but the owner said he did have some "cracks" available, which were kept in the refrigerator. He told me that his family eats them, and that they are fine as long as they are kept cold and then cooked within a few days. I did, and they were.

                                1. re: greygarious

                                  Of course, if you can get eggs right after they are laid while they are still a bit warm, and smother them with butter, you have the very Irish traditional treat of preserved buttered eggs....

                                  1. re: Karl S

                                    Not that I can get such fresh eggs here in the middle of the city, but I'm intrigued by this - how long are they preserved (at room temperature?) this way, and what do you do with them? Do you use the preserving butter too, or just discard it?

                          2. What this thread brings to mind is the traditional stone larder we had in Languedoc. Under the shelves was perfect for cases of wine. The shelved were used for cheeses, many fruits and vegetables with root vegetables in baskets at one end, etc. My entirely empirical experience is that many of my favorite foods and beverages are at their best (or to my taste) in the dark at about 55 F / 12-13 C.

                            I have been speaking to several people about how it might be possible to recreate this environment in an apartment.

                            1. The obvious question is why is your apartment 100 degrees? Mine is 85, so I really can't throw stones. I don't refrigerate onions or tomatoes until I cut them. Anything sprouting is probably past it's prime.Generally if it's not refrigerated in the store, then I won't do it in my home. NEVER refrigerate garlic.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: stricken

                                Because I live above a garage and there is zero insulation. As a result, when it is warm out, it is 10-15 degrees warmer in my apartment, and in the winter time, it is 10-15 degrees cooler. I can turn the AC on when I get home, but the problem is that for 12 hours, it sits in sweltering heat. Also, even with the AC on, the apartment cools down to maybe mid-90s, if it starts out at 100, so I usually don't bother.

                                Last week, I got tomatoes from the farmer's market on Sun, and by Tuesday, some were moldy, I'm suspecting from the sweltering heat.

                                1. re: anzu

                                  It really does diminish the taste of good farmers' market tomatoes to refrigerate them - but not as much as having them go rotten, so in your case, I say do it!

                              2. We refrigerate our onions and sometimes our tomatoes. Eep. Is that so bad?!

                                1. I used to refrigerate butter and eggs, but don't anymore.

                                  I never, never, never ever refrigerate tomatoes, because I really feel a pronounced difference in flavor, and it's hard enough these days to get a tasty tomato.

                                  I used to refrigerate cukes, but don't anymore for the same reason. I generally refrigerate onions and garlic, but don't see a problem with that.

                                  I suppose it makes a difference when you grocery shop almost daily, and just buy what you need for dinner & breakfast the next day. Not a lot of things in bulk in my household.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: linguafood

                                    I also try to avoid refrigerating tomatoes, but I have found that standing them on end (stem end down) on the counter in a row slows down the ripening/rotting process.

                                    Avocadoes are a bit tricky -- I will often buy them when they are still hard, ripen them on the counter for a day or three, then pop them in the fridge to stall the ripening process. Seems to work without too much sacrifice of flavour, and I actually enjoy the cool, creamy texture of a 'frigerated avoc :-).

                                    Bananas, oranges and apples go in the three-tiered wire mesh hanging basket -- onions and shallots too but they get a basket all to themselves.