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This Is Why You Should Be Refrigerating Tomatoes

This Is Why You Should Be Refrigerating Tomatoes

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Research shows that tomatoes should be kept in a room that is between 68 and 73 degrees F, but this becomes problematic during the summer months.

Most food websites scream at the top of their lungs that we should not put our tomatoes in the refrigerator, but are they wrong? Who made up this rule? Alton Brown says to do him a favor and never put tomatoes in the fridge, because “if they drop below 50 degrees F, a flavor compound called (Z)-3-hexenal is just going to flip itself off like a chemical switch… permanently.” But, maybe, just maybe, it’s a good thing for the switch to flip.

Click here for the 15 Tastiest Heirloom Tomato Recipes

Daniel Gritzer, culinary director at Serious Eats, did an experiment at home that will make you want to throw your tomatoes in the fridge from this point forward (at least during the summer heat). He bought three different types of tomatoes — hothouse, plum, and cherry — and set half of the tomatoes on the counter in 80-degree weather and the other half in the refrigerator. After one day, he began to notice differences in the tomatoes — the hothouse varieties had turned a deeper red sitting out on the counter than the ones that had been cooled. The initial taste-test showed that the tomatoes on the counter tasted better than the ones kept in the refrigerator, but that was only on day one. By day two, the tomatoes in the fridge tasted better than those on the counter.

Research shows that tomatoes should be in a room that is between 68 and 73 degrees F, but this becomes problematic during the summer months. Unless you plan to keep the air conditioner on all day long, your best bet is to put them in the fridge. Sorry, Alton Brown, but there are some flaws in your theory.

To keep your tomatoes flavorful and delicious, place them in the fridge if your kitchen storage area is over 70 degrees F. You can even run your own experiment with different tomatoes to see if refrigerating this summer staple is worth it.

The Best Way to Store Tomatoes, According to a Tomato Farmer

Their business is good tomatoes, so they know the secrets.

The magic of a perfectly ripe tomato is a fleeting moment in the heat of summer. The window of the year when the large, juicy fruits are at their most impeccable state of flavor, texture, and ripeness is brief, but it is glorious. Whether you’re a green-thumbed grower or you just frequent your farmers’ market on the weekend to stock up on the freshest local ‘maters, you can only get your money’s (or time’s) worth if you properly store these glorious fruits once you’re home.

We asked Andrew Kesterson, farmer at Belle Meadow Farm in Tuscaloosa, Ala., how he stores his own prize-worthy heirloom tomatoes. Even the most ardent tomato fan will learn a bit from Kesterson.

How to Choose Perfect Tomatoes

First things first: Start with quality tomatoes. Color and feel are the two best indicators of a good tomato. These signs can vary slightly across different tomato varieties, so we&aposve broken it all down for you.

Roma and Beefsteak Tomatoes

Beefsteak tomatoes are big and plump, while Roma (or plum) tomatoes are smaller and oval-shaped. Both should have a vibrant red color and a smooth, shiny skin that&aposs free of blemishes. They should feel firm, but also slightly soft to the touch.

Heirloom Tomatoes

Heirloom tomatoes are the colorful, wacky-shaped tomatoes you often see at farmers&apos markets. When picking them, you can follow the same guidelines you&aposd use for Beefsteak and Roma tomatoes. However, some farmers may not be exactly thrilled to see you poking and prodding their precious tomatoes, so it&aposs probably best to ask them to choose for you.

Cherry and Grape Tomatoes

Grape tomatoes are small and oblong, while cherry tomatoes are round and a touch larger. Due to their small size, these tomatoes are commonly sold in containers or packages for protective purposes. They tend to be firmer than larger tomatoes, but they should still give a little when pressed. Look for a uniform red or yellow color and smooth skin that does not contain mold spots.

Green Tomatoes

Green tomatoes are simply under-ripe tomatoes. They should be very firm to the touch and the skin should be a uniform light green color. Green tomatoes with an orangish tint are on their way to becoming ripe and will eventually turn fully red. If you&aposre making fried green tomatoes, avoid these — and stick to fully green ones.

Why You Should Never Wash Your Fruit Before Refrigerating It

Storing fruit isn’t as easy as it might seem ― especially if you want to extend its shelf life. First of all, there are certain fruits that should never be stored together. (Some kinds encourage others to ripen too quickly.) Secondly, you should never wash them before storing them in the fridge. That’s just going to increase the chance that they spoil prematurely.

The instinct to wash fruit is a good one ― just wait to do it right before eating it. Putting washed fruit in the fridge adds excess moisture, which speeds up fruit’s decay. And decay means throwing it in the garbage, which is a waste of money and food. Instead, store properly dried fruit in the fridge and wash it when you’re ready to eat.

If you really insist on washing your fruit before refrigerating it, just be sure to dry it really well before doing so. Cook’s Illustrated recommends using a salad spinner lined with paper towels to get fruits like berries really dry without any rough handling. But it would work for grapes and cherries, too.

If you’re one of those people who has to wash their summer berries before storing them, consider doing so in a vinegar solution. This can actually help extend the shelf life of fruit ― so long as the time and care is taken in drying. The vinegar destroys bacteria and mold, helping it stay fresh for days, sometimes weeks, longer. If you ask us, that’s more than worth the effort.



The ethylene in the banana is released from the stem, so you can keep bananas fresh by wrapping the stems with plastic wrap. Because ethylene production happens quickly, it's important for bananas to have little exposure to carbon dioxide in order to delay ethylene from releasing. In order to keep bananas from ripening during transport, special boxes or ripening rooms are used. Once bananas hit your preference in ripeness, they will last 3 days in the refrigerator. Bananas also last 2 to 3 months in the freezer.

Can you put tomatoes in the fridge?

The great tomato storage debate seems to be settled by the label on that little package of Romas that says, "Never Refrigerate." Pretty straightforward. Still, many people do just that and claim no ill effects. So, is the warning valid?

As usual, the answer is: yes and no. But mostly it's yes.

There are at least two schools of thought on the reasoning behind the counter-only storage of tomatoes. The most popular one is scientifically highfalutin and therefore a fun tidbit to share at dinner parties, but it's also quite unproven. This is the one that talks about flavor, and it focuses on volatile aromatics, the chemical compounds responsible for the way a tomato smells.

It is known that these compounds are in fact volatile -- that is, they react easily with other compounds, resulting in a change in chemical structure. The story is that storing a tomato below about 50 or 55 degrees Fahrenheit causes these compounds to degrade, and along with them, the taste of the tomato (because aromatics play a role in taste as well as smell).

The thing is, while heat certainly can result in the degradation of chemical compounds, you'd be hard-pressed to find a study showing that cold has that effect. Scientifically speaking, it doesn't make a ton of sense.

But that doesn't mean you should stick your tomatoes in the fridge. Doing so could definitely leave you with a less delicious fruit, just probably not because of aromatic compounds. More likely, refrigeration's negative effect on the tomato has to do with two different things -- first, there's texture.

Simply put, a tomato that lives in the fridge can turn mealy. It doesn't happen overnight, but it does happen. After, say, three or four days, you can find yourself with a texturally damaged piece of fruit.

The other issue is ripeness. If you bring home a vine-ripened tomato, like one you got at the local farmer's market, and you like your tomatoes cold, you can store it in the fridge for a couple of days without a problem. If you shop at a regular grocery store, though, chances are pretty good that tomato was picked before it fully ripened (it's a shipping-survival thing), so it's going to have to ripen at home -- and that has to be on the counter, not the fridge. Storing an unripe tomato at fridge temperature (usually about 40 degrees Fahrenheit) will prevent it from ripening, and you'll be eating something pretty tasteless in your salad.

In short: Store your tomatoes on the counter.

Unless they're fully ripe and you prefer them cold. Then, feel free to refrigerate for a short time.

Do remember, when you store your tomatoes on the counter, keep them out of direct sunlight, and no matter where they are, store them stem-side-up -- the former will prevent uneven ripening, and the latter will prevent bruising. The flesh around the stem is the tenderest part.

For more information on tomatoes and storing all sorts of fruit, look over the links on the next page.

This Trick Makes Tomatoes Even More Tomato-y

You’ve heard us sing the praises of salt before. It’s the single most essential ingredient in your kitchen. The biggest mistake people make when cooking is not using enough of it. So on and so forth.

By this point, then, you know to salt your pasta water with a heavy hand. And maybe you know to salt your potato water until it has reached ocean-levels of salinity, too. But today we’re here to talk about the importance of salting your tomatoes.

Tomatoes are different than pasta and potatoes, of course. They’re not dense carbs that taste like absolutely nothing unless they’re properly seasoned. So why, you might wonder, is a generous sprinkle necessary? Why—especially when tomatoes are at peak-season ripeness and taking a bite of one almost feels like eating a Gusher—must you do more?

There are two reasons. One, as senior food editor Molly Baz put it, is that “salt makes food taste more like itself.” This is particularly useful when tomatoes are used in a recipe with a lot else going on. Take this Fancy and Beautiful Tomato Salad, for example. Tomatoes are the star, but there are other intense flavors making moves, too. Herbs, lemon, za’atar, and feta are all fighting for your attention, so you want your tomatoes to be their most tomato-y selves in order to stand out. The salt actually highlights the tomatoes’ sweetness by acting as a foil. Think about it: That’s why there’s salt in nearly every baked good. In the case of tomatoes, the salt is also drawing water out, intensifying the fruits’ natural flavors.

In this ultimate caprese, the tomatoes are generously sprinkled with salt. Amen!

The second reason to salt tomatoes is for tomato juice. In some cases, like with eggplant, zucchini, or cucumber, the liquid that salt draws out is remnant of murky water and can go. All you want is the veg itself, primed for caramelizing, frying, or smashing.

But tomato juice is delicious and should be just as prized as the tomato itself. Just like when you're macerating berries in a bit of sugar and salt, the liquid becomes part of the dish. In that tomato salad, it mingles with the dressing, marinates the feta, and coats the pita chips until they become gloriously crispy-gone-soggy.

So what are you waiting for? Stop reading this article (oh look, it's nearly done!), go buy some glorious summer tomatoes, and salt away.

8 Fruits and Vegetables You Shouldn't Be Refrigerating

In an ideal world, you’d never need to put produce in the fridge. You’d go to the market before each meal, pick up your locally-grown vegetables, walk home, unpack, and start cooking right away. There’d be no need for refrigeration at all. And that sounds nice, but that’s definitely not the world we live in. Some produce needs to go in the fridge, because we don’t have the time or energy to go to the market three times a day.

But there are also some fruits and vegetables that would prefer to be left out on the counter. Or in a little ceramic pot on top of the fridge. Or in a cabinet under the drawer where all your spoons and ladles go. You shouldn't just go throwing everything in the fridge. Here are the fruits and vegetables that are best kept outside the fridge:

Tomatoes do best on the counter, in the warm light of the sun (assuming you have a window in your kitchen), where they can ripen to absolute perfection. Putting a tomato in the fridge does weird things to it’s texture, making the flesh mealy and unpleasant. And when we're shelling out cold hard cash for heirloom tomatoes at the peak of their season, preserving that perfect texture and juicy flesh is our number one priority.

Garlic, Onions, and Shallots
With the exception of spring onions and scallions, alliums shouldn’t be stored in the fridge. These bulbs benefit from being kept in a cool, dry, dark place. And make sure to avoid wrapping them in plastic bags. Your shallots, onions, and garlic want to breathe! And breathing in a plastic bag isn’t the easiest thing to do.

Hard Squashes
You should store summer squash (like zucchini) in the fridge, but thick-skinned squash like acorn, butternut, or kabocha should stay at room temperature. This is partially to preserve their texture, but it’s mostly because squash tend to take up a lot of real estate in the drawers and on the shelves of your fridge. It’s crowded enough as it is in there, so keep those hard squash out on the counter and save that space for something else.

Potatoes and Sweet Potatoes
Similar to the alliums we were talking about earlier, you want to store these starchy vegetables in a cool, dry, dark place. This keeps potatoes from sprouting, which is facilitated by sunlight and moisture. Sprouting your potatoes won’t result in more potatoes, just the added chore of trimming off the sprouts (which taste terrible and have some potentially harmful compounds in them).

Corn isn’t really a vegetable—a story for another time—and it doesn’t really belong in the fridge. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t call it one. or put it in the fridge. Putting corn in the fridge isn't going to hurt it per se, and it may keep it fresher longer, but if you're going to use it within a day or two you might as well leave it out and free up some fridge space.

Stone Fruit
Like tomatoes, putting stone fruits—think plums, peaches, and cherries—in the fridge can make their flesh go mealy. So if you want that incredible, silky, juice-dripping-down-your-chin bite, leave them out on the counter.

Once you pick a pineapple, it doesn't get any riper, so you should try to buy a perfectly ripe pineapple with the intention of eating it sooner rather than later. That also means that you should just leave it at room temperature—keeping it in the fridge isn't going to have an effect on its ripeness.

You could put melons in the fridge. if you really wanted to. But we prefer to eat melons at room temperature, so the flesh is as soft as possible. Changing the temperature of the melon will tense up the interior, possibly making it a tad less succulent.

Is a cucumber a fruit?

So yeah, back to this thing about cucumbers being fruits and not vegetables, it&rsquos true. According to The European Food Information Council, a cucumber is a fruit because of its seeds.

&ldquoA botanist would use the botanical classification, which is based on the plant&rsquos physiological characteristics, like the structure, function and organisation of the plant. Therefore, botanically speaking, a &lsquofruit&rsquo is the seed-bearing product that grows from the ovary of a flowering plant or, in other words, a fruit is the plants&rsquo way of spreading its&rsquo seeds. A botanical fruit would have at least one seed and grow from the flower of the plant. With this definition in mind, cucumbers are classified as fruit because they contain tiny seeds in the middle and grow from the flower of the cucumber plant.&rdquo

And that concludes today&rsquos class on cucumbers.

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Finally, science explains why you shouldn't put tomatoes in the fridge

NEW YORK If you buy tomatoes from John Banscher at his farmstand in New Jersey, he&rsquoll recommend keeping them out of the fridge or they&rsquoll lose some of their taste.

Now scientists have figured out why: It&rsquos because some of their genes chill out and are altered by cold temperatures, ultimately affecting the flavor. A new study unravels the process, and may someday help solve the problem.

Cooling tomatoes below 54 degrees stops them from making some of the substances that contribute to their taste, according to researchers who dug into the genetic roots of the problem.

That robs the fruit of flavor, whether it happens in a home refrigerator or in cold storage after harvest but before the produce reaches the grocery store shelf, they said.

With the new detailed knowledge of how that happens, &ldquomaybe we can breed tomatoes to change that,&rdquo said researcher Denise Tieman of the University of Florida in Gainesville.

She and colleagues there, in China and at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, report their findings in a paper published Monday by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Trending News

They showed that after seven days of storage at 39 degrees, tomatoes lost some of their supply of substances that produce their characteristic aroma, which is a key part of their flavor. Three days of sitting at room temperature didn&rsquot remedy that, and a taste test by 76 people confirmed the chilled tomatoes weren&rsquot as good as fresh fruit.

Tomatoes stored for just one or three days didn&rsquot lose their aroma substances.

Further research showed that the prolonged chilling reduced the activity of certain genes that make those compounds, Tieman said.

To put it in technical terms, they write, &ldquochilling-induced tomato flavor loss is associated with altered volatile synthesis and transient changes in DNA methylation.&rdquo

Methylation is the process by which a cluster of atoms known as a methyl group adheres to an organism&rsquos DNA and alter its function. Methylation plays a role in regulating gene expression, and abnormal patterns of methylation have even been linked to the development of diseases.

Her lab is already looking into the possibility of breeding tomatoes that don&rsquot lose flavor in the cold, she said.

In the meantime, &ldquoJust leave them out on the counter, or leave them in a shaded area, something like that,&rdquo said Banscher, whose farm is in Gloucester County. &ldquoA tomato has a decent shelf life.&rdquo

First published on October 17, 2016 / 6:50 PM

© 2016 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Here's Why You Should NEVER Refrigerate Your Onions

While there are many reasons to extol your refrigerator's virtues, some foods just need to stay out of it.

A fridge can dehydrate your bread, for example, sweeten your potatoes and harden your honey.

And, believe it or not, this rule applies to onions, too, which stay good for up to 30 days if you store them the right way (in a cool, dry, dark place -- not in the fridge).

Here's why: When an onion is chilled, the cold, humid temperatures in a refrigerator convert the starch to sugars (the same happens with potatoes), and onions tend to become soft or soggy a lot faster. Plus, as you probably already know, they also skunk up your fridge and make everything smell or taste like onions.

Instead, keep storage onions, such as red or white onions, in the mesh bag they came in, or in a bowl in a cool, dry, ventilated spot in your pantry. The USDA recommends you store them at 45 to 50ºF (just above refrigeration level), but if you can't find such a cool place, they'll keep for a week at room temperature. Also, don't store onions in a bag they need air to breathe, and make sure you keep the onions separate from potatoes, as potatoes can excrete moisture that speed up an onion's decomposition.

This no-fridge rule doesn't apply to scallions or green onions, however, as they have a higher water content and need to be chilled.

As a bonus, if you want to reduce the amount of tears that fly out of your face when you cut onions, the National Onion Association recommends chilling the onion for about 30 minutes before cutting the top off and peeling off its outer layers (being sure to leave the root end alone, as it has the highest amount of sulphuric compounds that tend to get our eyes watery).

Add this to the list of other things we keep refrigerated that we definitely shouldn't.

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