How to Store Tomatoes – Keep Them Fresh Longer!

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how to store tomatoes

After you come home from the farmer’s market, it’s time to put away all your lovely, fresh produce. But before you pack everything into the fridge, read on to learn the best ways to store your tomatoes.

Storing tomatoes can be a bit tricky but with a bit of knowledge, you can have fresh, delicious-tasting tomatoes whenever you need them.

How to store tomatoes? Generally, tomatoes should be kept at room temperature. This allows them to stay fresh and taste the best. If, however, your kitchen is too warm, then the fridge can be a temporary solution.

Tomatoes in the fridge won’t ripen further, allowing you to decide when to use them. If you have slices of tomato, or half a tomato, then it definitely needs to be stored in the fridge to prevent bacteria from growing.

The best way to decide how to store tomatoes is to plan when you will be using them. Also remember that in a pinch, overripe tomatoes can be used for tomato sauce.

How do you keep tomatoes fresh longer?

Tomatoes are a delicate fruit and it can be hard to purchase or pick them at just the right time. Too green and they won’t be ready when you need them; too ripe and they can turn rotten before you are ready.

If possible, purchase tomatoes that are almost ripe. The same goes for if you are picking them from your garden.

Almost ripe tomatoes will be firm without any bruising. Depending on the type, they may be a light red color; usually a deep red means they are overripe.

Once you have brought your almost ripe tomatoes home, find a cool place to store them that is at room temperature. They should not be in direct sunlight.

A cool place like the pantry is perfect although you can also keep them on the counter. If your home is above room temperature, especially during hot summer months, then you will have to think about placing them in the fridge.

Different Ways on How to Store Tomatoes

different ways to store tomatoes

Ripe tomatoes in the Refrigerator

Sliced

If you have sliced tomatoes, then you should definitely refrigerate them. Once exposed to air, the inside flesh of tomatoes will quickly grow bacteria, making them rotten and inedible within hours.

If you can, only slice what is needed from a whole tomato. Having a half tomato will last longer than individual slices of tomatoes.

However, there are times when having leftover slices of tomatoes can’t be avoided, such as if you have prepared a bunch of toppings for hamburgers, or if you just overestimated how much you will need in a recipe.

Place the half or sliced tomatoes in a Ziploc bag or airtight container. Remove as much air as possible so that bacteria doesn’t have the opportunity to grow.

The other reason you might have sliced tomatoes is if you are preparing a dish ahead of time. If possible, wait until you are ready to actually use them.

If you’re short on time and want to be better prepared, then it is ok to slice or dice them earlier in the day, or even the night before.

Just be cautious as to how small the tomato pieces will be. Small, diced tomatoes will lose a lot of their juice and you will be left with just the skin and pulp.

Depending on what you need the tomatoes for, store the tomatoes and juice together in an airtight container.

Sliced, ripe tomatoes will last 2 to 3 days in the fridge. Check to see they don’t have white or black spots, or a strong odor, before using sliced tomatoes.

Whole

When you have a perfectly ripe tomato, it’s a waste not to enjoy it. However, if you have plans for it in the next couple of days, there is a way to preserve it, and that is by placing the tomato in the fridge.

When kept at a low temperature, a ripe tomato will enter a stage of stasis. It won’t last forever, but for a few days, the tomato will stop ripening, preserving the stage it is currently in.

The downside to this is that the enzyme process is slowed which affects both the taste and texture of a tomato. You can have a tarter tomato that is also a bit mealy in texture.

The best scenario is to remove your tomato from the fridge a few hours before using it. By bringing it back up to room temperature, it will hopefully improve its taste and texture.

If you’re worried about how your refrigerated tomatoes will taste, it’s best to think about the cost of throwing out overripe tomatoes and purchasing them, versus slightly less delicious tasting tomatoes.

Whole, ripe tomatoes will last 3 to 5 days in the fridge.

Unripe Tomatoes In The Refrigerator

Sliced

While most unripe tomatoes are best left whole, there is a way to use green tomatoes at a later date by first slicing them.

The trick is to think about what you want to use them for. Green tomatoes don’t have a lot of uses, as they are too bitter for many recipes. However, you can make fried green tomatoes.

Select firm green tomatoes that aren’t bruised. Then, give them a good wash.

Slice your green tomatoes ¼-inch thick. Don’t include the tops or bottoms.

After you have sliced your green tomatoes, remove the core of them so that you have tomato rings. Because they are unripe, this step should be easy.

Then, place a layer of parchment paper between each slice so they don’t stick to each other. Finally, place all your slices into an airtight freezer container. Place in the freezer until you are ready to use them.

Frozen, sliced unripe tomatoes last for 6 months.

Whole

You have beautiful heirloom tomatoes, fresh from the garden. However, it’s the end of the season and it’s starting to get cold outside. Don’t despair as there is a way to salvage your green, unripe tomatoes.

While it’s always nice if the ripening process of tomatoes is done naturally, sometimes Mother Nature needs a bit of help.

Take your fresh tomatoes and place them either in your pantry or on your counter. You want to keep them at room temperature, no more than 20 degrees Celsius or 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

Turn the tomatoes upside down so their stem area is resting on the flat surface. This area is studier and there will be less bruising.

Within a few weeks, your green tomatoes will ripen and turn red. However, if you need them riper soon, there is an innovative method you can try.

Place your green tomatoes next to some bananas. As bananas ripen, they produce ethylene gas, which in turn ripens tomatoes faster.

If you only have a few tomatoes that need to be ripened, you can place them and one or two bananas in a paper bag. Close the bag and within about a week, you will have perfectly ripened tomatoes.

Unripe tomatoes can take 1 to 3 weeks to fully ripen, depending on how green they are.

Room Temperature

Ideally, tomatoes should be stored at room temperature. However, this does not necessarily include those hot, sweltering summer days.

When we talk about room temperature, we really mean around 20 degrees Celsius, or 70 degrees Fahrenheit. While this can vary 5 to 10 degrees cooler, you don’t want your tomatoes left at room temperature any higher than this.

Remember to consider the room temperature and not the outside temperature. If you have air conditioning, then your kitchen will still be in the ideal range, even if it is the hottest day of the summer.

Tomatoes, like any other fruit, will continue to ripen in warmer temperatures. Suddenly, your underripe tomato can become perfectly ripe and then overripe if exposed to heat.

To store tomatoes at room temperature, flip your tomatoes over and place them on the area where the stem is. This is a sturdier part of the tomato than the bottom.

Moreover, the stem area is usually a bit flatter than the curved bottom of tomatoes. There will be less bruising in this position.

If there is bruising, however, it will near the stem which is removed anyways, so there will be less overall waste.  

Do tomatoes last longer in the fridge or on the counter?

Technically, tomatoes will last longer in the fridge than on the counter. When stored at a colder temperature, the ripening process stops and tomatoes won’t become overripe or rotten.

However, while you may be able to preserve your tomatoes, it will come at a price. Tomatoes exposed to cold temperatures will degrade in both their taste and their texture.

When you go to use a tomato from the fridge, you will find that it has a mealy texture and also will not be as sweet-tasting.

Conclusion

The best place to store tomatoes is at room temperature. This allows them to ripen naturally and keep their intense taste and fresh texture.

However, if you won’t be using your tomatoes for a while, then you can sacrifice a bit on texture and place them in the refrigerator until they are needed.

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