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What is the scientific reason tomatoes should not be refrigerated?

by Lani

Q. Can you explain the scientific reason that I should not store my fresh tomatoes in the refrigerator?

A. Tomatoes begin to lose their flavor after they've in the refrigerator for a few days - or even a few hours, so say some true aficionados. Their texture also gets grainy.

The culprit is an acid in tomatoes (lineolic acid) that turns to a compound (Z-3 hexenel) which gives tomatoes their taste. Cold hinders the process that the acid uses to turn into the compound. More cold = less transformation of lineolic acid to Z-3 = less tomatoey taste and smell.

One way to manage this is to remove tomatoes from the refrigerator about an hour or two before you plan to eat them. By setting them at room temperature you give any remaining lineolic acid the chance to turn into the compound, giving the tomato a final boost of flavor.

Try this experiment to test flavor for yourself:

  • Pick 4 tomatoes - same variety, same ripeness.
  • Taste one right away.
  • Set one on the counter. Place two in the fridge.
  • An hour later, remove one from the fridge.
  • Taste the room-temperature, counter top tomato, the short-term fridge tomato, and the long-term fridge tomato against each other (remembering the flavor of the vine-eaten tomato).
  • Decide for yourself!

Good Luck and Happy Gardening!
Your friends at Tomato Dirt

Comments for What is the scientific reason tomatoes should not be refrigerated?

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Mar 06, 2014
No reason not to refrigerate tomatoes!
by: Anonymous

There is no reason not to refrigerate tomatoes, you just don't want to get them too cold. 40 degrees is fine!

Oct 14, 2012
The Refrigeration Truth
by: Anonymous

See this article for the truth about refrigerating tomatoes.

If you do this experiment, I hope you have someone else cut up the tomatoes so you don't know which is which! Otherwise, you can be biased!

Tomato Dirt responds
Terrific input! Thank you. Very ripe tomatoes in the fridge for a day or two probably won't offend "the tomato police"!

Folks, please try the experiment for yourselves and share your comments.

(BTW, love the tip that reminds us not to cut the tomatoes until just before serving.)

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