Fridge Or Shelf: Does It Matter Where You Store Tomatoes?

GOTTINGEN, Germany — Everyone has their own special trick for storing and ripening their tomatoes. But is there a “scientifically correct” way to store tomatoes?

Researchers from the University of Gottingen in central Germany have attempted to answer this question by comparing the taste of ripe tomatoes that are stored in the fridge with those stored at room temperature. It turns out that the type of tomato is much more important to the flavor than the temperature it’s stored at.

The research group took tomatoes that went through the same commercial post-harvest process and then stored them in either a 7 degree Celsius (45 degrees Fahrenheit) refrigerator or a 20 degree Celsius (68 Fahrenheit) container. The research group recruited a “sensory panel” of twelve experienced and trained evaluators that use their senses to evaluate the sensory properties of products.

The panel assessed the tomatoes for eight characteristics: green-grassy odor, tomato-typical odor, tomato-typical flavor, sweetness, sourness, juiciness, firmness of the fruit peel, and aftertaste.

The people on the panel were given four pieces of tomato on testing day. All of the pieces were served at room temperature even if they had been stored in the fridge. This prevents the panelists from being able to discern the storage conditions of the tomatoes.

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Overall, the panelists did not find any differences between the flavor that could be explained by the storage conditions. “It is the variety of tomato in particular that has an important influence on the flavor. Therefore, the development of new varieties with an appealing flavor can be a step towards improving the flavor quality of tomatoes,” says lead author Larissa Kanski, in a press release.

The researchers note that regardless of which method you use to store your tomatoes, they will taste better when stored for a short amount of time. “The shorter the storage period, the better it is for the flavor and related attributes. However, we were able to show that, taking into account the entire post-harvest chain, short-term storage of ripe tomatoes in the refrigerator did not affect the flavor,” concludes Head of Division of Quality of Plant Products Professor Elke Pawelzik.

The study is published in Frontiers in Plant Science.

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