How to store sliced tomatoes: it’s a bit of a controversy.
Or is it? If you’ve sliced a tomato and left it on your counter for any length of time, you’ve created a magnet for gnats and fruit flies. The leftovers get thrown away.
But foodies’ warning lingers in your ears. “Never store a tomato in the refrigerator!” The reason, they tell you, is simple. Chilling fresh tomatoes prevents them from ripening. The optimal storage temperature for whole tomatoes is 55°F. The average refrigerator is set to 41°F. The cold slows or halts the process.
Here’s the dividing line: if you’ve sliced a tomato to eat, chances are that it’s already ripe. So setting it in the fridge doesn’t impact flavor all that much.
What can change in the icebox, however, is the texture. Cold breaks down cell membranes inside the fruit. You want that freshly sliced tomato to stay juicy, wrinkle-free, and bruise-less.
Tomato Dirt best advice: keep whole tomatoes at room temperature until they’ve reached your desired level of ripeness. Their skins protect their innards. But once you’ve sliced a tomato, then use these tips to keep the leftovers fresher for longer.
Here’s how to store tomatoes after cutting to keep them fresh.
A tomato storage container is useful for keeping tomatoes and other produce fresh. These specialized containers are designed to extend a tomato’s shelf life and maintain flavor and texture. Tomato storage containers are airtight. Some even have ventilation control, which allow you to regulate humidity levels that can lead to molding. Plus, most tomato storage containers are made of plastic, which is durable and resists odors.
So say the good folks at the National Restaurant Association, who have identified a freshly sliced tomato as a TCS food – that is one that needs “time/temperature control for safety.” A sliced tomato spoils quickly without refrigeration. Like other TCS foods, cut tomatoes are magnets for bacteria and other nasty pathogens. Slice into that baby and things go downhill quickly unless you use them right away … or seal them and get them cold to stop the microorganism invasion.
Unsliced? All good. But don’t leave a sliced tomato at room temperature for more than four hours. Refrigerate them properly (below 41°F) to maintain safe storage.
3 days max. One day – or even hours – is best.
Store unripe or unsliced tomatoes at room temperature. But once they’re ripe, eat them (unless you can, freeze, or dry them.) And store tomatoes stem-side down, whether on the counter, windowsill, or sliced in the fridge.
Reason? Moisture escapes from the stem end. You can slow the process by "putting a lid" on it, so to speak, either at room temperature or in the icebox.
And rest assured that if you slice into a perfectly ripe tomato, stashing the other cut half in the fridge isn’t going to ruin it. Especially if you use it as fast as you can.
Which will definitely be the case if it's a homegrown, delicious fresh one.
More on how to store tomatoes
By Kathy Widenhouse, award-winning writer and owner of Tomato Dirt, a leading online source for growing tomatoes and using them.
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