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Do Tomatoes Need To Be Refrigerated? The Answer Might Surprise You

should tomatoes be refrigerated
Photo: CC0 Public Domain / Unsplash - Richard Barnard

Tomatoes are a classic summer staple in any kitchen. Proper storage is important to keep them tasting fresh and delicious for as long as possible. We’ll explain whether or not you should refrigerate tomatoes and share some tips on how to extend their shelf life. 

There is nothing better than the taste of fresh tomatoes, whether you buy them at the farmers’ market or grow your own. While they are a delicious addition to any meal, they can be quite tricky to store because of their sensitivity. Knowing how to store them correctly can help keep the colorful fruits fresher for longer.

For the best flavor, purchase regional and organic tomatoes. Not only do they taste better, but their cultivation is also much better for the environment. You can find organic tomatoes at local farmers’ markets or roadside vegetable stands.

Should You Refrigerate Tomatoes?

Because tomatoes are very sensitive, the temperature at which they’re stored is important. That’s why the most common answer to the question “should tomatoes be refrigerated?” is no. Here’s why:

  • 40˚F or below is the recommended temperature for a refrigerator, according to the FDA
  • 55˚F is the ideal storage temperature for tomatoes
  • 68-72˚F is considered room temperature, which can easily fluctuate depending on weather

Based on the above temperature guidelines, refrigerators are too cold for tomatoes, and countertops too warm. But don’t worry; there are clear guidelines regarding tomato storage!

How to Store Tomatoes

should you refrigerate tomatoes
In order to prevent mold, avoid washing tomatoes before storage — wait until you’re ready to use them. (Photo: CC0 Public Domain / Unsplash - Micheile Henderson)

Should tomatoes be refrigerated to extend their shelf life? Despite the vehement ‘no’ with which many a mother or grandmother would answer this question, the answer depends on the ripeness of the fruits.

Unripe: If your tomatoes are still green around the edges, the best way to store them is stem side down and spread out in a single layer in a cardboard box. Leave them there until they are nice and red. Tip: Leave the stems on as they continue to provide nutrients to the fruit.

Ripe: It’s best to use ripe tomatoes immediately, but if you need to store them, keep them at room temperature and out of the sunlight. Store the stem side up and spread them out, so they’re not touching one another. If possible, consume within 3 days.

Overripe: Overripe tomatoes are bright red and very soft to the touch. If you can’t use them immediately, pop them into the fridge. The colder temperatures will stop the tomatoes from ripening further and buy you three more days to use them up.

Tip: Before eating refrigerated tomatoes, let them come up to room temperature on the counter for a day or so. This helps to bring back some of the flavor lost because of the cool temperatures.

Tips for Using Tomatoes

Instead of trying to decide whether you should refrigerate your tomatoes, why not transform them into something ready to eat or something that can be easily stored for later use? Consider the following:

Bruschetta Recipe

should tomatoes be refrigerated
Bruschetta is a fantastic way to use up some of your ripe tomatoes. (Photo: CC0 Public Domain / Pexels - Lucie Liz )

To retain as much flavor as possible, tomatoes shouldn’t be refrigerated. Instead, try using them to make this quick bruschetta recipe:

– 6 ripe tomatoes, diced
– 2 cloves garlic, minced
– 1 tbsp olive oil
– 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
– 8 fresh basil leaves, chopped
– 1 tsp salt
– ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
– ¼ cup parmesan or vegan parmesan alternative

– In a bowl, combine chopped tomatoes, minced garlic, parmesan, olive oil, balsamic vinegar and chopped basil.
– Season with salt and pepper
– Serve on top of toasted slices of French or Italian bread

Note: The bruschetta mix can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 days in the fridge.

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