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Unrefrigerated Tomatoes -- I Still Don't Get It

almond tree May 8, 2013 03:10 AM

Okay, I heard it here on CH that refrigerating tomatoes was not a great idea, so recently I tried leaving my very ripe, from the shuk, tomatoes out at room temperature. Within a couple of days, at temperatures in the 30s C (90s F), all were unpleasantly soft and some were moldy.
Now I'm back to storing them in the fridge. And they taste fine. In fact, I'm just finishing a tomato/cucumber/avocado/sweet pepper/harif (hot) pepper/red onion/fresh basil/lemon juice salad that tastes more than fine.
So I'd like to hear more specific instructions than just "fridge is bad, counter is good."

  1. m
    Maximilien May 8, 2013 03:56 AM

    Well, one should eat tomatoes when they are ready to eat; especially when they are VERY ripe; leaving them outside in a hot environment will accelerate the ripening (sp?) and they will start to rot.

    Putting tomatoes in the fridge will slow down the aging and decaying of ripe tomatoes.

    Leaving tomatoes out of the fridge, at least those that are not yet ripe enough will help them ripen and IMO give them better taste; and I hate cold tomatoes (and cold raw veggies in general)

    1. j
      jpc8015 May 8, 2013 04:00 AM

      The cold temperatures of the refrigerator will ruin the texture of a tomatoe and make it mealy.

      If your tomatoes were very ripe then you should have just eaten them.

      2 Replies
      1. re: jpc8015
        ferventfoodie May 8, 2013 01:39 PM

        I agree with jpc - if your tomatoes are very ripe, eat them.
        Make a fresh pasta sauce or bruschetta.

        I'm the the mid-Atlantic states, and the only tomatoes I buy
        in the winter are grape or cherry to throw into a salad.

        In tomato season, I don't get to the farmers' market every
        day so I try to select tomatoes at varying stages of ripeness
        to last over a few days and definitely store them on the
        counter. I find a distinct difference in taste and texture with
        refrigerated tomatoes but if you don't have AC that might
        be your only option.

        1. re: ferventfoodie
          EM23 May 8, 2013 06:52 PM

          "try to select tomatoes at varying stages of ripeness
          to last over a few days and definitely store them on the
          Great advice. And if you find some getting too ripe, make sauce and freeze it - there's nothing like the taste of summer tomato sauce in February.

      2. Gastronomos May 8, 2013 04:08 AM

        LOL! You're joking, right?

        At that ripeness and at those temperatures, you got exactly what you should have expected.

        "Very ripe tomatoes" aren't to be stored.

        "Very ripe" tomatoes, being very tasty, lose just as much flavor from the cold storage as do any tomato of any ripeness. But since the "very ripe" tomato is so much more flavorful, the cold storage still leaves plenty of flavor behind.

        If you started with a less ripe tomato the cold would leave them flavorless. This may only be noticeable to some people who are not used to cold stored tomatoes. If some people are used to cold tomatoes, then room temperature tomatoes aren't pleasant.

        Having grown tomatoes in my vegetable garden for many, many years I have been able to pick vine ripened tomatoes to enjoy the same day or next without much problem. If tomato crop is overabundant, then sharing with friends and family or sauce or jarring may be in order. If I see that many will ripen at once then I pick them the *day before* and store at room temperature for a few days.

        BTW, where are you located? Curious for two reasons. First, that much *stuff* on a tomato salad is NEVER going to make a difference if you have "very ripe" tomatoes or unripe green tomatoes. Lemon juice or vinegar on tomatoes is blasphemy. I see everyone do it and I cringe. Cannot and will not ever like it. Ever. Horrible treatment of tomatoes. Horrible. Second, at this time of year, where are you getting your "very ripe" tomatoes?

        Also, *very ripe* tomatoes are an American thing. Travels through Italy and Greece show that *salad tomatoes* are under ripe tomatoes meant to hold up in a salad. *Very ripe* tomatoes fall apart and are meant to be eaten out of hand.

        42 Replies
        1. re: Gastronomos
          cresyd May 8, 2013 04:19 AM

          Lemon juice and tomato is a very common marriage in the Middle East. Salads of tomato, cucumber, olive oil, lemon and salt are quite common, along with a variety of other preparations.

          I can't speak specifically to almond tree's tomatoes - but as someone who lives in Jerusalem, tomatoes are largely used by home cooks for salads/raw preparations. So ripeness is more frequently judged on their ability to work within a salad/raw. Unfortunately for me, most tomatoes I buy now end up in the fridge because the size of my kitchen does not have so much counter space.

          1. re: cresyd
            Gastronomos May 8, 2013 05:02 AM

            Ok. Being from Cyprus myself, I get the lemon juice and tomato thing. I also repeat that under ripe tomatoes are more traditional for these preparations that you mention. Underripe.

          2. re: Gastronomos
            almond tree May 8, 2013 04:56 AM

            Not joking, just trying to learn something new. That's exactly why I posted -- to find out exactly what the idea of not storing tomatoes in the fridge is all about.
            I can't go shopping every day, so I usually buy enough tomatoes for a week at a time.
            I put "that much *stuff*" on my salad quite simply because I like it, ***especially*** the lemon juice :). (Cresyd is right, it's a regional thing.) The tomatoes weren't the star of the show, just a very nice component.
            Where I'm getting my very ripe tomatoes -- I live in Jerusalem, so tomato season is in full swing already and will be until October or November.

            1. re: almond tree
              Gastronomos May 8, 2013 05:04 AM

              Ok. If you like refrigerated tomatoes, go for it. If you can't tell he difference, go for it. Being from Cyprus myself I get the lemon juice thing. It's more traditional to use underripe tomatoes. Underripe.

              1. re: Gastronomos
                almond tree May 8, 2013 05:07 AM

                Huh? I didn't say I prefer refrigerated tomatoes, just that I can't shop for them every day.

                1. re: almond tree
                  lynnlato May 8, 2013 06:22 AM

                  "Now I'm back to storing them in the fridge. And they taste fine. In fact, I'm just finishing a tomato/cucumber/avocado/sweet pepper/harif (hot) pepper/red onion/fresh basil/lemon juice salad that tastes more than fine."

                  I think what Gastronomos was saying is that you seem to not have any flavor or texture issues with a refrigerated tomato so why not just keep doing as you are doing? I think for many folks, myself included, refrigerating dulls the flavors and changes the texture - making the tomato mealy and even gritty. Kind of like a bad apple. But if that doesn't happen for you then that's great! Maybe Israeli tomatoes are a hybrid or variety that stands up to refrigeration. Whatever the reason, enjoy your maters and your delicious salads (that salad sounds lovely). :)

                  1. re: lynnlato
                    almond tree May 8, 2013 09:53 PM

                    I haven't noticed a change in texture, although the local style is to chop all salad ingredients quite fine and to let them sit together and "marry" for a while, so differences in texture would be less noticeable than if I were eating them in thick slices.
                    In terms of flavor, the summer tomatoes in Israel (which are already on the stalls in the shuk) are intensely flavorful, so some slight loss of flavor would probably be insignificant.
                    I guess I can do a comparative taste test to find out for sure :).

                  2. re: almond tree
                    scubadoo97 May 8, 2013 06:57 PM

                    Just enjoy them room temp or cold. There is a difference but its not night and day. No sin

                2. re: almond tree
                  bcc May 8, 2013 05:24 AM

                  Most of the tomatoes that most of us buy are picked green and refrigerated before we get them. These tomatoes have had their cell walls and enzymes damaged, and can never taste good. Ripe tomatoes are another matter. Harold McGee advises to let ripe tomatoes that have been refrigerated sit on the counter for a day or two before eating them. This is supposed to help them recover.

                  1. re: bcc
                    almond tree May 8, 2013 05:25 AM

                    Thank you for a clear explanation.

                    1. re: almond tree
                      cresyd May 8, 2013 05:31 AM

                      Do you think that happens to tomatoes in Israel? Given the abundance of tomato in the local diet, I have always assumed that a good chunk of the tomatoes we get go through some kind of large scale agricultural meddling - but I don't really know much about the life of the average tomato sold in Israel.

                      1. re: cresyd
                        almond tree May 8, 2013 05:58 AM

                        I don't think tomatoes are usually picked green in Israel. They are transported much shorter distances than is often the case in North America. Also the turnover at Machane Yehuda is very high and Israelis are pretty demanding of good quality produce.
                        So my conclusion is that we don't need to be so concerned with leaving tomatoes on the counter here, although I would like to try taking out whatever amount I plan to use that day, to let it come to room temp.

                        1. re: almond tree
                          danna May 8, 2013 07:11 AM

                          I agree that you should do whatever works for you, but please don't get the idea that high quality or vine ripe produce survives refrigeration better somehow.

                          There's no way in the world I'd put the tomatoes I grow in the fridge. It destroys both flavor and texture. Sometimes if I by crappy grocery store tomatoes and want them to last longer, then I will refrigerate...because they suck already.

                          btw, peaches are similarly destroyed by refrigeration.

                    2. re: bcc
                      westsidegal May 8, 2013 11:07 PM

                      don't believe McGee.

                      1. re: westsidegal
                        DeppityDawg May 9, 2013 04:19 PM

                        Why not?

                    3. re: almond tree
                      Chowrin May 8, 2013 05:46 PM

                      Thanks for the "season" update! Was reading everyone else talking about "winter" tomatoes, and thinking, "okay, when's winter in the Middle east?"
                      (If i remember right, that means dry season is tomato season, and wet season is not tomato season?)

                      1. re: Chowrin
                        almond tree May 8, 2013 09:45 PM

                        Winter in Israel is basically the same time as in North America -- it's just shorter and rainy rather than snowy (although we do have a snowfall every couple of years). You are right, that is not tomato season -- tomatoes are still available in the stores, but they are expensive, poor textured and tasteless.
                        The long sunny dry season starts some time in March or April, so by now this year's tomato crop is in full swing.

                    4. re: Gastronomos
                      EM23 May 8, 2013 06:34 PM

                      Give Marcella Hazan's Garlic Scented Tomato Salad a try. It may just change your opinion about vinegar and ripe tomatoes.


                      1. re: EM23
                        fldhkybnva May 8, 2013 06:38 PM

                        You had me at vinegar and ripe tomatoes. I love both! I enjoy red wine vinegar much more than balsamic vinegar so this will be a wonderful spin on bruschetta which I often just throw on top of chicken.

                        1. re: fldhkybnva
                          EM23 May 8, 2013 06:45 PM

                          Such a simple recipe, but so delicious. Make sure to follow the marinating garlic and salt in vinegar step. It infuses the 'maters with great flavor. Is it July yet???

                          1. re: EM23
                            fldhkybnva May 9, 2013 01:21 PM

                            Great, thanks so much!

                        2. re: EM23
                          Gastronomos May 8, 2013 06:52 PM

                          Thank you. I will note that she states, "ripe, firm, round or plum tomatoes"
                          That is not the same as very ripe tomatoes. Very ripe are usually not firm and she also goes on to say to skin the raw tomatoes. I have not had much luck skinning very ripe tomatoes. Even on occasions where I get garden tomatoes that are of the thick skin variety.
                          How ripe a tomato should be for a salad is preference.
                          Marcella Hazan also writes to a certain audience...

                          Being of Greek heritage I can say that a true Greek Salad has no lettuce in it at all. Tomatoes, cucumber, sliced raw onion, green peppers, copious amounts of olive oil and salt. A variety of personal favorites like capers and olives etc. But NEVER vinegar. It's a regional thing. On the island of Cyprus underripe tomatoes (they call them "ripe", as in "ready to eat") are diced with cucumber etc. and lemon juice is added. The acid missing from the ripe tomato is made up with lemon juice. The lemon juice also acts as an antiseptic.

                          1. re: Gastronomos
                            acgold7 May 8, 2013 10:03 PM

                            I've traveled all over Greece for months at a time and had Horiatiki every day and every one had red wine vinegar on it.

                            1. re: acgold7
                              Gastronomos May 9, 2013 07:16 AM

                              Was the salad served dry? Or was the salad served dressed?

                              1. re: Gastronomos
                                linguafood May 9, 2013 12:46 PM

                                Interesting. I used to make horiatiki with olive oil and lemon juice (in my younger days when I despised vinegar -- I hadn't had any good one), but it never tasted right.

                                A Greek friend of mine told me that's b/c they use red wine vinegar, not lemon. He's a mainland Greek. Maybe that's what you say about regional variations. I know a few Cretes I could ask.

                                I love a well-made horiatiki, but primo tomatoes and good feta are essential for it to taste right. And good olive oil. And 'rigani.

                                Damn, do I have a craving now....

                                1. re: linguafood
                                  Gastronomos May 9, 2013 03:12 PM

                                  I'd love to know what your friend from Crete says about vinegar in tomato salad.

                                  1. re: Gastronomos
                                    linguafood May 9, 2013 03:14 PM

                                    Well, not tomato salad. Horiatiki. I'll ask him right now :-)

                                    1. re: Gastronomos
                                      linguafood May 9, 2013 04:14 PM


                                      1. re: linguafood
                                        Gastronomos May 9, 2013 05:08 PM


                                        1. re: Gastronomos
                                          linguafood May 9, 2013 05:31 PM

                                          So funny you'd mention dakos. My buddy sent me a link in his reply about the horiatiki.

                                          I'm not much of bread salad gal, tho.

                                  2. re: Gastronomos
                                    acgold7 May 9, 2013 05:29 PM

                                    Usually dressed, but if dry there was Red Wine Vinegar on the table.

                                2. re: Gastronomos
                                  EM23 May 9, 2013 09:19 AM

                                  Yes, very ripe tomatoes are hard to skin. I make sauce with them and the skins usually peel off in the pot while it simmers and are easy to pick out.
                                  Being of Irish heritage, tomatoes, garlic and red wine vinegar were not on our table growing up. I am grateful every time I cook for the lucky day, at the age of 18, when I found a copy of Hazan's Classic Italian at a library book sale. :)

                                  1. re: EM23
                                    Gastronomos May 9, 2013 03:18 PM

                                    I am happy for you and your epiphany for sure!
                                    I am always pleased when someone embraces the mediterranean diet!
                                    Good health and happiness to you and yours!

                                    1. re: Gastronomos
                                      EM23 May 9, 2013 04:40 PM

                                      Cheers Gastronomos! Same back at you:)

                                3. re: EM23
                                  foodieX2 May 9, 2013 03:20 PM

                                  Yum! How have a not seen this recipe? When tomatoes come in here that is on my list.

                                4. re: Gastronomos
                                  EWSflash May 11, 2013 02:10 PM

                                  Blasphemy? Maybe the issue is yours rather than blasphemy if you see "everybody doing it". I love a good vinaigrette on tomatoes and a lemon/oil combo too. Your preferences don't necessarily dictate mandate, mine either. You like them au naturel, fine, but please try to refrain from such judging!

                                  1. re: EWSflash
                                    sunshine842 May 13, 2013 03:53 AM

                                    No kidding -- most of the European continent serves vinegar of some sort on tomatoes.

                                  2. re: Gastronomos
                                    justlizikaria May 12, 2013 10:51 PM

                                    In Greece, oil AND vinegar/lemon juice are added to all salads- Horiatiki (village salad), Lettuce, shredded cabbage/carrot, boiled greens, egg/tuna salads etc etc Salads arrive already dressed at Tavernas and Restaurants usually with Oil AND Vinegar bottles on the table for those who want extra.As for the ripeness of the tomatoes, fully red yet firm tomatoes are preferred, but occasionally tomatoes that aren't fully ripe (red) are used.

                                    1. re: justlizikaria
                                      Vinnie Vidimangi Jul 23, 2013 11:54 PM

                                      Is salt used in Greece?

                                      1. re: Vinnie Vidimangi
                                        Tripeler Jul 24, 2013 04:05 AM

                                        VV, You've never had Greek food?

                                        1. re: Tripeler
                                          Vinnie Vidimangi Jul 24, 2013 05:43 PM

                                          My 3am attempt at a witty way to point out that the posts ignore a pillar of Greek cooking- the pillar of salt. Greek cooking often has far too much salt but it does go with heavy cigarette use. But the Greeks are OK in comparison with the Russians. So much salt! Revolutionary cooking- the dish revolts and my body rebels.

                                          The posts talking about Greeks and Italians using unripe tomatoes in salads do not recognize differences in variety, terroir, season and handling. Variations in tomatoes and use are almost as great as variations in grapes and wine.

                                          almond tree. There are all kinds of tomatoes in Israel. One kind is very fleshy and dense. It just sits on the shelf and nothing happens. Eventually it starts to wither but it is still OK to eat. There are compromises in every breeding programme. Consider the British Royal family.

                                          You were so lucky to get tomatoes perfect to eat the day you bought them! Or, when life gives you a ripe tomato- to make the next day matbucha (concasse, you can raise the price) or shakshuka. No waiting!) How much were they in comparison to other tomatoes at the market? Was it very humid at the time?
                                          Learn to love your tomatoes!

                                          I am an expert at garbage in the market but I certainly did need a crash course when I got to Israel.

                                          Incidentally, the modern commercial cherry tomato is the product of Israeli research and development. Small tomatoes for a small country.

                                          1. re: Vinnie Vidimangi
                                            almond tree Jul 25, 2013 06:03 AM

                                            Shalom (or should I say "salve"), Vinnie,
                                            The tomatoes I bought were just regular Machane Yehuda ones -- nice but not out of the ordinary compared with their fellows.
                                            Since I only get to the shuk once a week at most, I bought a lot and decided to try leaving some out at room temp. I then scientifically proceeded to forget about them (during a spring heat wave -- hot, not humid), and when I found them a few days later, they were not happy campers.
                                            I think the whole discussion in this thread arose because folks living in the US assumed that early May tomatoes were dismal supermarket/hothouse produce, which would be in need of ripening.
                                            This was not the case with mine.

                                  3. k
                                    kengk May 8, 2013 04:56 AM

                                    If they are not as ripe as you would like them to be leave them on the counter. If they are fully ripe, either eat them immediately or put in the refrigerator.

                                    Just say no to dogma.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: kengk
                                      fldhkybnva May 8, 2013 05:37 PM

                                      This has worked for me. The grape tomatoes aren't always at the ripest and so they seem to last for up to 2 weeks on the counter with no noticeable change in quality. If I buy vine-ripened whole tomatoes or fresh ready-to-go ripe tomatoes we eat them immediately. I never refrigerated tomatoes as I don't like the texture.

                                    2. MGZ May 8, 2013 06:02 AM

                                      No produce ever tastes as good once it's been refrigerated as it does before.

                                      19 Replies
                                      1. re: MGZ
                                        acgold7 May 8, 2013 10:07 PM

                                        Except for, you know, all of them.

                                        Apples and pears need to be held in cold storage to ripen. No pear varieties and very few apple varieties can ripen on the tree. If you try to let them do so, they rot.

                                        And every other fruit tastes better icy cold from the fridge.

                                        There is nothing more disgusting than body temperature watermelon.

                                        1. re: acgold7
                                          cresyd May 8, 2013 10:44 PM

                                          Oh my body temperature watermelon.......I just got a little ill.....

                                          1. re: acgold7
                                            Jerseygirl111 May 8, 2013 11:27 PM

                                            Refrigerated peaches, pears, plums or bananas? No thank you. I also do not refrigerate apples, grapes, cherries or any citrus except grapefruit. Melon and berries do go in but
                                            I have absolutely no problem with room temp watermelon. At bbq's we always have it that way. Cut and consumed immediately. Deelish.

                                            Oh, also I refrigerate leftover sliced tomato. It would never last another day otherwise. And when I make a tomato and onion salad I store it in the fridge but will always let it come to room temp before eating. Cold tomatoes are ick.

                                            1. re: acgold7
                                              MGZ May 9, 2013 01:48 AM

                                              I completely disagree. Refrigeration dulls flavors.

                                              1. re: acgold7
                                                foodieX2 May 9, 2013 03:25 PM

                                                Some the best apples I have ever had have been right off the tree. I dream of local macouns…

                                                1. re: acgold7
                                                  sandylc May 9, 2013 08:44 PM

                                                  I grew up with both apple and pear trees, and they always ripened beautifully on the trees with no rotting.

                                                  Grapefruit is actually much better at room temperature, as are apples, peaches, pears, and other fruits that I can't think of right now.

                                                  1. re: sandylc
                                                    acgold7 May 9, 2013 08:56 PM

                                                    There are a few varieties that ripen well on the tree. Most don't.

                                                    All the rest is all about personal taste. I cannot imagine anything more vile than warm citrus. But hey, if you like it....

                                                    1. re: acgold7
                                                      sandylc May 9, 2013 09:19 PM

                                                      I do. It isn't even close to vile.

                                                      1. re: sandylc
                                                        EWSflash May 11, 2013 02:28 PM

                                                        I have lovely memories of pink grapefruit picked off the tree on a hot day and eaten right then and there.

                                                        1. re: EWSflash
                                                          foodieX2 May 11, 2013 02:34 PM

                                                          I have the same memory but with oranges. When we would go to Fla I would get one of those plastic tubes things that you stick in the orange and drink the juice. Nothing better than fresh off tree in the, warm from the Florida sun!

                                                      2. re: acgold7
                                                        scubadoo97 May 10, 2013 03:26 AM

                                                        A tangerine picked off the tree certainly isn't vile to me. Hey but different strokes

                                                        1. re: scubadoo97
                                                          sunshine842 May 10, 2013 06:37 PM

                                                          we had our own tree for many years -- many tangerines never even made it into the house - snarfed right there under the tree, and there's definitely no refrigeration built into a citrus tree.

                                                          1. re: sunshine842
                                                            sandylc May 10, 2013 07:08 PM

                                                            Refreshing to hear Indiana lingo! Snarfed! Where I live now it's scarfed! I miss snarfed.....;-(

                                                    2. re: acgold7
                                                      Isolda May 11, 2013 02:05 PM

                                                      I eat apples off the tree every autumn and they taste delicious. Maybe they aren't ripe (how do you define that in an apple, anyway), but they taste better just picked (crisp, juicy, slightly sour) than they ever will sitting on a shelf or in the fridge a day or two later. Ditto for Asian pears. If I don't pick 'em, I don't want 'em.

                                                      1. re: acgold7
                                                        KaimukiMan May 11, 2013 02:13 PM

                                                        Sorry, I must disagree on the pears. At the end of pear season Auntie used to let us climb the tree in her backyard and pick and eat the pears right there. Still the best pears I ever had.

                                                        1. re: KaimukiMan
                                                          sunshine842 May 12, 2013 05:56 PM

                                                          there was a pear tree in a windrow in one of the fields in the area where I grew up.

                                                          In the fall, we'd anxiously await the weekend when we would climb the tree, sit in the branches (4 of us!) and munch pears right off the tree.

                                                        2. re: acgold7
                                                          Vinnie Vidimangi Jul 23, 2013 11:55 PM

                                                          acgold7: I heartily disagree with almost everything that you write,

                                                          1. re: acgold7
                                                            westsidegal Jul 24, 2013 09:59 PM

                                                            for sure i know that your information about pears is incorrect.
                                                            my neighbor has a pear tree.
                                                            dunno where you heard this stuff. . . . .

                                                            1. re: westsidegal
                                                              sunshine842 Jul 25, 2013 04:02 AM

                                                              it's true that apples and pear TREES have to have a certain period of cold weather in order to set blossoms and fruit -- perhaps that's gotten melded into the theory somewhere.

                                                              But no -- the fruit will ripen right there on the tree...the human race has been eating apples and pears since several centuries before there was refrigeration.

                                                        3. C. Hamster May 8, 2013 06:15 AM

                                                          Very ripe tomatoes need to be eaten.

                                                          It's proven fact that refrigeration ruins the taste and texture of tomatoes.

                                                          But if you don't notice the difference between fresh garden tomatoes and winter supermarket tomatoes then by all means carry on.

                                                          4 Replies
                                                          1. re: C. Hamster
                                                            kengk May 8, 2013 06:47 AM

                                                            I'm curious to know how extensively you have tested this proven fact for yourself.

                                                            I grow tomatoes by the bushel and sometimes refrigeration is the only viable alternative I have to letting them spoil. I have not noted the degradation of quality that others report. In fact, my experience mirrors that of the OP, "they taste fine."

                                                            1. re: C. Hamster
                                                              Chowrin May 8, 2013 05:46 PM

                                                              Quite possible that OP has never tasted winter supermarket tomatoes... At least not the way we do them Stateside.

                                                              1. re: Chowrin
                                                                Vinnie Vidimangi Jul 23, 2013 11:58 PM

                                                                Mexican and Florida tomatoes are crap because they are crap right from the get go. The fridge is an added insult, but often irrelevant on the crapmeter.

                                                              2. re: C. Hamster
                                                                paulj May 8, 2013 10:35 PM

                                                                Can you be clearer about that 'ruins the taste and texture'?

                                                              3. j
                                                                janniecooks May 8, 2013 06:49 AM

                                                                If it is necessary to buy more tomatoes than can be eaten before they go bad, by all means refrigerate them. Better to do that than buy and discard them several days later when they rot. Perhaps an optimal solution is to buy fewer tomatoes at one time. Tomatoes' taste and texture suffer under refrigeration, no doubt about it.

                                                                1. ursy_ten May 8, 2013 06:49 AM

                                                                  I was wondering much the same thing - but then I read somewhere that our supermarket tomatoes are put into cold storage until they are ready to be put out on sale - and the condensation I've observed on tomatoes recently put out on display would support this. So in this case, it probably matters little whether you refrigerate your tomatoes or not - the damage has been done, they have been refrigerated before they were even brought home.

                                                                  I did a side by side comparison with a freshly picked tomato I grew and a supermarket tomato and there was no contest, flavour and texture wise. You just can never be sure how the tomatoes you find in the supermarket have been stored.

                                                                  14 Replies
                                                                  1. re: ursy_ten
                                                                    acgold7 May 8, 2013 10:11 PM

                                                                    Interestingly, I did the exact same comparison with my home-grown and the cluster on the vine types you can get at the store, and what I found was, there was absolutely no difference. Given the time, money and effort you spend to grow your own, I will never grow my own again.

                                                                    1. re: acgold7
                                                                      ursy_ten May 8, 2013 10:49 PM

                                                                      Well yeah, I guess it depends on how the store ones were treated as well... and the variety...

                                                                      I like gardening, and tomatoes are so easy to grow - so it's a no-brainer for me. Plus if you get heirloom varieties and save the seeds, they're free after the initial outlay!

                                                                      I hate paying $3.00 for a tiny punnet of cherry tomatoes at the supermarket... or $6.00 for a kilo of romas, knowing how easy they are to grow.

                                                                      I guess it would be very different if I didn't care for gardening that much.

                                                                      1. re: acgold7
                                                                        C. Hamster May 9, 2013 05:11 AM

                                                                        I've come to exactly the opposite conclusion. My garden tomatoes are far superior to anything I've bought at a supermarket.

                                                                        1. re: acgold7
                                                                          kengk May 9, 2013 05:50 AM

                                                                          I have never purchased a tomato that tasted even close to as good as my home grown ones do to me. I admit that some of it is surely in my mind. I get a great deal of satisfaction from gardening and even things that I can tell are objectively not any better from my garden still seem better somehow.

                                                                          When people ask me about gardening I always tell them it is only worthwhile if you enjoy it.

                                                                          I do think supermarket tomatoes are getting better though. We got remarkably good tomatoes from the store all through this past winter.

                                                                          1. re: kengk
                                                                            MGZ May 9, 2013 05:56 AM

                                                                            "I have never purchased a tomato that tasted even close to as good as my home grown ones do to me."

                                                                            Agreed. Plus for a coupla dollars and the three minutes it takes to put an heirloom plant into the ground, you get, what, at least five or six beauties? Each of which tastes way better than anything available in a grocery store anywhere (but, then again, my homegrown are never refrigerated - in fact, sometimes they're not even washed).

                                                                            I spose sometimes you need to take a minute and a half to water 'em with the hose, but I just don't see how growin' tomatoes could be a lot of work.

                                                                          2. re: acgold7
                                                                            Pwmfan May 9, 2013 06:38 AM

                                                                            I've given up trying to grow tomatoes. The deer where I live (1st ring suburb) have totally decimated the heirlooms I've grown as soon as they flower; I mean, they mowed them down! Nothing deters these deer; they are fearless and resourceful. I now spend my money on tomatoes from the numerous local farmers' markets. Thankfully, deer don't seem to be interested in most herbs, so that's what I grow now.

                                                                            1. re: Pwmfan
                                                                              ursy_ten May 9, 2013 06:47 AM

                                                                              Maybe you could surround your tomatoes with a forcefield of herbs!

                                                                              1. re: ursy_ten
                                                                                Pwmfan May 9, 2013 06:49 AM

                                                                                Tried that; they just hop over the herbs to get to the tomatoes!

                                                                                1. re: Pwmfan
                                                                                  ursy_ten May 9, 2013 06:52 AM

                                                                                  Poo :(

                                                                                  1. re: ursy_ten
                                                                                    Pwmfan May 9, 2013 07:15 AM

                                                                                    Tried that too (predator poo from the zoo). No help! :)

                                                                                    1. re: Pwmfan
                                                                                      ursy_ten May 9, 2013 07:19 AM

                                                                                      Lol - I never would have even thought of that!

                                                                                      1. re: Pwmfan
                                                                                        danna May 9, 2013 01:06 PM

                                                                                        Wow. You'd think that would work.

                                                                                        We see deer quite a bit in our pasture, but the Doberman is apparently keeping them out of the yard.

                                                                            2. re: ursy_ten
                                                                              Steve May 9, 2013 10:54 AM

                                                                              "I did a side by side comparison with a freshly picked tomato I grew and a supermarket tomato"

                                                                              Where I live, supermarket tomatoes are bright red and perfect looking. You will not find a blemish at many chain supermarkets. In my area, Safeway, Giant, Harris Teeter can't sell tomatoes that are bruised. They will pay a premium for good looking tomatoes that stand up to long-distance trucking. They could be expensive, rock hard when bought, mealy when ripe, and flavorless. Does not matter.

                                                                              1. re: ursy_ten
                                                                                Vinnie Vidimangi Jul 24, 2013 12:00 AM

                                                                                Hey look. There are a million varieties of tomato. You have to compare to the same type. Then there is terroir.

                                                                              2. c
                                                                                Chowrin May 8, 2013 05:48 PM

                                                                                Also; when people say "don't refridgerate" they mean keep at around 70-80 degrees. If you have a root cellar, a place where there's wind and relative coolness/darkness, they may keep better.

                                                                                1. sunshine842 May 8, 2013 06:15 PM

                                                                                  here you go:


                                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: sunshine842
                                                                                    DeppityDawg May 9, 2013 04:13 AM

                                                                                    And here's a link to Harold McGee:

                                                                                    1. re: DeppityDawg
                                                                                      512window May 9, 2013 12:04 PM

                                                                                      The slight problem with this is that it is Euro/North American centric. As I understand it the OP is from Israel. Keeping a tomato at "room temperature" in that environment may mean a temperature difference of 10-20 degrees F higher than what McGee implies by "room temperature". That's why the OPs very ripe tomatoes are rotting at room temperature.

                                                                                      And, as a scientist, neither this nor the previous link is science. It's just someone else's opinion.

                                                                                      1. re: 512window
                                                                                        DeppityDawg May 9, 2013 12:26 PM

                                                                                        It's a book for the general public, not an academic journal. I tend to trust McGee not to just pull nonsense about enzymes and cell membranes out of his *** and publish it, but if you, as a scientist, can show that he's wrong, I think all of us would be interested in hearing about it.

                                                                                        I think most people (including Israelis) understand more or less what "room temperature" refers to, and that the should adjust accordingly if their actual room is significantly cooler or warmer than this. [On second thought, I have no idea if most people understand this, and of course I agree with your comment about stuff rotting faster in warmer environments. Harold McGee also says this…]

                                                                                  2. a
                                                                                    acgold7 May 8, 2013 10:12 PM

                                                                                    If the choice is between the refrig and the trash bin, I vote for the former.

                                                                                    1. f
                                                                                      foodieX2 May 9, 2013 03:35 PM

                                                                                      <<Now I'm back to storing them in the fridge. And they taste fine>>

                                                                                      OP- I am not sure what there is for you to "get". They taste fine to you. What do you care what others say or think? We can all give you our specific instructions one what we have found in our experience but does it matter? If you are happy and they taste great then enjoy!

                                                                                      In my personal experience, as many others have noted, I find that the texture changes when left in fridge too long. It's like the cold leeches the flavor and juicy texture out. I get a farm share and in August I am over run with tomatoes along with the ones I grow myself. I can get pretty creative but if they look like they might rot I invite friends over or I make sauce.

                                                                                      1. greygarious May 9, 2013 05:33 PM

                                                                                        I read somewhere that when ripening tomatoes on the counter, they should be placed with the stem side down. This deters the ability of bacteria or fungi to enter via the vulnerable area surrounding the stem, so the fruit stays in good condition longer.

                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                        1. re: greygarious
                                                                                          johnb May 9, 2013 08:01 PM

                                                                                          I believe that was Cook's Illustrated.

                                                                                        2. johnb May 9, 2013 08:18 PM

                                                                                          There is a good scientific reason not to refrigerate tomatoes -- it is not a matter of opinion or preference, but science. Some of the enzymes necessary for the development of the characteristic flavor of tomatoes as they ripen are destroyed by being chilled to less than 55 F. Once a tomato has been chilled to 55 or less it can never ripen properly and develop the flavors that we associate with a good tomato. If it has already ripened and is then chilled, well, that's another thing.

                                                                                          Poor handling (chilling) is doubtless one important reason that "supermarket" tomatoes are not as tasty as home-grown ones (though there are other well-known reasons of course).

                                                                                          I have often seen tomato cases (wholesale size) with directions printed on the side directing downstream handlers to not chill them.


                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                          1. re: johnb
                                                                                            scubadoo97 May 10, 2013 03:22 AM

                                                                                            So supermarket tomatoes can be chilled since they have already lost the "flavor" enzyme and are basically tasteless to begin with

                                                                                          2. JayL May 10, 2013 09:09 PM

                                                                                            Why would you store ripe tomatoes at 90+ degrees? Were you attempting to debunk an idea that you didn't want to agree with no matter what?

                                                                                            Cold does "turn off" some flavors in the tomato. I can taste it, therefore there is a difference (to me).

                                                                                            Our tomatoes simply sit on the counter or in a fruit bowl until we use them or throw them out. If we cut one and don't use it all, that piece goes in the fridge...and there is a definitive difference in taste unless we bring it back to room temp before eating.

                                                                                            If you're taste receptors can not differentiate between cold or room temperature tomatoes, I would wholeheartedly not worry about it.

                                                                                            5 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: JayL
                                                                                              Vinnie Vidimangi Jul 24, 2013 12:04 AM

                                                                                              It goes both ways. No, you know what I mean.
                                                                                              The French are right when they serve food to be eaten at just above room temperature.

                                                                                              1. re: Vinnie Vidimangi
                                                                                                sunshine842 Jul 24, 2013 04:02 AM

                                                                                                the French serve cold food and hot food. Every day.

                                                                                              2. re: JayL
                                                                                                escondido123 Jul 24, 2013 09:22 PM

                                                                                                If I only use half a tomato, I set it cut side down on a plate that gets put in the cabinet--the tomato needs to be eaten within 24 hours.

                                                                                                1. re: escondido123
                                                                                                  Steve Jul 25, 2013 05:14 AM

                                                                                                  Wow, I've never heard that before, thanks for the idea!

                                                                                                  1. re: Steve
                                                                                                    escondido123 Jul 25, 2013 08:52 AM

                                                                                                    It keeps the fruit flies away.

                                                                                              3. p
                                                                                                peanuttree May 11, 2013 09:05 PM

                                                                                                apparently there is some kind of flavor chemical that gets turned off in the cold inside the tomato. Plus, you won't taste the sweetness as well (cold makes your tongue less sensitive to sugars).

                                                                                                Also, why are your temperatures 90f? Don't you have some AC in your house? In the seasons I grow tomatoes, or when I buy them from the farmers market, I leave them out in the kitchen and they last for like a week.

                                                                                                3 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: peanuttree
                                                                                                  kengk May 12, 2013 07:16 AM

                                                                                                  Seriously, like why doesn't the OP get some AC or like move to a cooler climate. You would almost think they weren't a good American. Do it for the tomatoes!!!!!!!!!!

                                                                                                  1. re: kengk
                                                                                                    Scoutmaster May 12, 2013 07:46 AM

                                                                                                    Alton Brown's episode of Good Eats - Tomato Envy explains the "science" behind tomatoes. He says never store them (homegrown) below 50 degrees.


                                                                                                    1. re: kengk
                                                                                                      Steve May 12, 2013 08:01 AM

                                                                                                      You've missed the obvious solution: store them in the wine cellar. 55 degrees should do it.

                                                                                                  2. p
                                                                                                    peanuttree May 12, 2013 08:04 AM

                                                                                                    From Good eats S06E06 Tomato Envy:

                                                                                                    "Now when you get them home, don't keep them in direct sunlight, okay, no matter how pretty they look. Oh, and never put them in the refrigerator, okay? 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."

                                                                                                    Wikipedia of (z)-3-dexenal:

                                                                                                    cis-3-Hexenal, also known as (Z)-3-hexenal and leaf aldehyde, is colorless liquid and an aroma compound with an intense grassy-green odor of freshly cut green grass and leaves. It is one of the major volatile compounds in ripe tomatoes. It is produced in small amounts by most plants and it acts as an attractant to many predatory insects. It is also a pheromone in many insect species.

                                                                                                    cis-3-Hexenal is an aldehyde. It is relatively unstable and isomerizes into the conjugated trans-2-hexenal. The related alcohol cis-3-hexen-1-ol is much more stable. It has a similar but weaker smell and is widely used in flavors and perfumes.

                                                                                                    1. p
                                                                                                      peanuttree May 12, 2013 08:08 AM

                                                                                                      googling "cis-3-Hexenal and refrigeration", found:

                                                                                                      in the book "Biochemistry of foods"

                                                                                                      "These researchers attributed the lack of flavor in supermarket tomatoes to the lower levels of cis-3-Hexenal as compared to vine-ripened tomatoes. In addition they reported a loss of flavor in refrigerated tomatoes because of lower levels of cis-3-Hexenal. This affect of cold storage on tomatoes was in agreement with previous work by Lammers (1981)"

                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                      1. re: peanuttree
                                                                                                        Vinnie Vidimangi Jul 24, 2013 12:10 AM

                                                                                                        Also because the supermarkets start off with crap tomatoes.
                                                                                                        Someone in an office in where ever calls someone in Arizona and a railcar load of tomatoes shows up. These are shipping tomatoes , not eating tomatoes.

                                                                                                      2. p
                                                                                                        peanuttree May 12, 2013 08:28 AM

                                                                                                        This cis-3-hexanol thing: in plants and fruits and such, besides the obvious basic things like sugars (sweet) acids (sour) and such, flavors are created by volatile organic compounds. In fruits, they're usually esters, and often times just one specific ester can be found creating the one "identifying" flavor. There's one ester that smell strongly of bananas, another that smells strongly of strawberries, etc. This is where artificial flavors come from, they're the chemically produced or isolated-from-other-things versions of these chemicals.
                                                                                                        However, usually, there's a whole slew of esters and aldehydes and ketones that produce the complex aromas/flavors of plant foods. Even when one ester has the "identifying" flavor, a lot of other flavor notes come from various other flavor aroms compounds. This is why artificial flavors lack the complexity of real flavors (though make no mistake, people overwhelmingly report the artificial flavors as better in tests. this is because with artificial flavors/extractives, the flavors are in liquid form throughout the food, easily volatilizing and producing the scent, as opposed to being trapped in plant cell walls. And on top of that, flavor companies do their best to include all those odd chemical notes to create a more complex flavor. It's a whole industry, with some very high-paid individuals with amazing noses, and good proprietary flavor mixes can cost a pretty penny for food factories who want to use them)

                                                                                                        For all of those flavor "notes", scientists have actually isolated individiual chemicals, each with their own note or scent. ALone, these chemicals give vague but familiar smells. This cis-3-Hexenal is reported to have a intense grassy-green odor of freshly cut green grass and leaves.

                                                                                                        Now, at the very least, refrigerating tomatoes will make this note less volatile. I dunno about it "turning off" like Alton Brown is saying, it's not an enzyme, so it doesn't do that sort of thing. But the wikipedi article says that it's an unstable molecule that can isomerize into another chemical, so maybe that's what's happening.

                                                                                                        Either way, does this one chemical scent-note not being there really make such a difference? I'd actually doubt it, but it doesn't hurt to keep it around. And let's not forget in general volatile compounds won't be as volatile in the fridge.

                                                                                                        Alls I know is the only tomatoes worth eating for me are the ones I grow or buy from the farmer's market and never refrigerate, and they last a while on the counter. Of course they won't last at 90f, but why on earth is your kitchen that hot? That's crazy. The only other tip I have is don't put them in direct sunlight. Do you have a cellar maybe? Maybe a little fridge you could set at 50f? That's always made me think, they need a produce fridge, nothing lasts in normal fridges because of all the dryness, and it's way colder than it needs to be for a lot of produce. Just a little fridge that stays at 50f and keeps it humid inside and also provides some ventilation and fresh air.

                                                                                                        Rest of the year, it's canned tomatoes or sauces, which are made in season from fresh, vine-ripened tomatoes and then canned, which is still better than the faux-red baseballs you get at the supermarket (picked green and "ripened" with ethylene)

                                                                                                        1. KarenDW May 12, 2013 10:21 PM

                                                                                                          Even though refrigerating is "not a great idea", I firmly believe that storing food in ways which enables us to eat said food is better than allowing food to spoil. So, if your kitchen, like mine, stays "hot" (by North American standards) then to ahead and refrigerate food. Some items, such as tomatoes, will taste better if allowed to come to 15-20º before consuming. Basically, chilling is one method to slow down spoilage. Less spoilage = less waste.

                                                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                                                          1. re: KarenDW
                                                                                                            johnb May 18, 2013 10:18 AM

                                                                                                            But if you refrigerate an unripe tomato, and possibly even a ripe one (I think the jury is still out on the latter) you've wasted it anyway, for the scientific reasons discussed above. Unless of course you don't care much how it tastes.

                                                                                                            1. re: johnb
                                                                                                              Vinnie Vidimangi Jul 24, 2013 12:12 AM

                                                                                                              Buying most tomatoes at the supermarket is a waste.and worse . It displaces good tomatoes. Most supermarket tomatoes are crap whatever you do to them.

                                                                                                          2. westsidegal Jul 25, 2013 08:06 AM

                                                                                                            almond tree:
                                                                                                            the reason you still don't get it is that your palate is not sensitive enough to discern the obvious sizable difference in flavor that many of us can discern.

                                                                                                            you don't have to get it.
                                                                                                            you can have a fine life without ever getting it.
                                                                                                            but, just because you can't sense a difference, it doesn't mean that a difference doesn't exist.

                                                                                                            i don't get why people like ferraris. doesn't mean that there isn't a difference between ferraris and bmws. just mean that i don't "get" why some people get so much more pleasure out of ferraris than i do.

                                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                                            1. re: westsidegal
                                                                                                              paulj Jul 25, 2013 08:49 AM

                                                                                                              So how do your ripe tomatoes taste after sitting out on the counter for three hot LA days (no AC)?

                                                                                                              1. re: westsidegal
                                                                                                                almond tree Jul 25, 2013 04:08 PM

                                                                                                                Well, we're really talking about 2 (or more) different things -- US winter supermarket tomatoes vs. vine-ripened, picked-that-morning tomatoes, which was what I was referring to. Add in a heat wave room temperature of 30-odd degrees plus no air conditioning.
                                                                                                                Under the circumstances, a refrigerated tomato tastes pretty good, and has the added benefits of being A) refreshing and B) not rotten.

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