Keeping your tomatoes in the fridge may extend their shelf life, but it comes at a cost: taste. A new study confirms that refrigeration really does strip your delicious tomatoes of much of their flavor – and sadly, many tomatoes have already reached these taste-killing temperatures before they even get to your kitchen.
“Chilling-induced tomato flavor loss is associated with altered volatile synthesis and transient changes in DNA methylation,” reads the title of the paper recently published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It’s a lot of technical talk for making grandma’s pasta sauce, but the message is clear. “Commercial tomatoes are widely perceived by consumers as lacking flavor,” the authors write. “A major part of that problem is a postharvest handling system that chills fruit. Low-temperature storage is widely used to slow ripening and reduce decay. However, chilling results in loss of flavor.” And this flavor loss isn’t simply subjective: At temperatures below about 54 degrees Fahrenheit, levels of important “flavor-associated volatiles” become reduced, making tomatoes bland.
The researchers, a global team from Cornell University, the University of Florida, and Zhejiang University in China, came to this conclusion by chilling different varieties of tomatoes for three to seven days before giving them a “recovery period” of one to three days, according to Consumerist. The study found that less refrigeration time led to less depletion of these important compounds, and unfortunately, the “recovery period” had little effect on helping to salvage their flavor – meaning warming your tomatoes back up isn’t going to bring back their pop.
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The worst part of these findings is that for many shoppers, by the time you get your tomatoes, it’s already too late since typically the fruit (or vegetable or both; we’ll set that whole argument aside for now) has been chilled in an attempt to keep it fresh while traveling to store shelves. Consider it just another great reason to hit up your local farmers market. Or grow your own tomatoes yourself. It’s what grandma would have wanted anyway.