Wait — Should We All Be Refrigerating Our Tomatoes After All?

If your house is really warm in the summer months, maybe.

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We’ve heard time and time again that refrigerating tomatoes is akin to pairing caviar with Kraft American singles. In other words, its a giant no-no. Food experts warn that putting your tomatoes in the fridge ruins the flavor and texture — and no one wants a flavorless, mealy Caprese salad, right? Their solution? Don’t refrigerate them, duh.

Writer Daniel Gritzer over at Serious Eats decided to test this theory and he writes about his findings in a post titled “Why You Should Refrigerate Tomatoes and Ignore Anyone Who Tells You Otherwise.” Turns out, after putting the fridge-versus-countertop debate to the test all summer long, he found that actually, the tomatoes he put in the fridge fared better, both in taste and in texture, than those left on his counter.

Over the course of the summer, Gritzer performed 11 taste tests comparing refrigerated and unrefrigerated tomatoes of all kinds — beefsteak, heirloom varieties, cherry tomatoes, and so on — never mixing and matching types, and discovered that out of the 11 tests, taste-testers only unanimously preferred the countertop tomatoes in one. In five of the tests, taste-testers unanimously preferred the refrigerated tomatoes and in the other five tests, votes were split.

Why on Earth did the refrigerated tomatoes beat the countertop in taste in flavor, you ask? Well, one very plausible reason, as Gritzer points out, is that tomatoes are in season during the summer. And when food experts suggest people leave them out of the fridge at room temperature, they’re assuming that most people actually cool their homes to room temperature, a comfortable 68 to 73 degrees. If this were the case, then sure, tomatoes would probably do better left out of the fridge. But since, oftentimes, it’s not — lots of folks, like myself and the writer, skimp on air-conditioning to avoid heart-attack-inducing electric bills — the tomatoes that are left out often end up sitting on hot countertops, over-ripening super quickly and passing their taste and flavor peaks in no time.

The takeaway? If your house is boiling hot in the summer months, you might actually be better off sticking  your farmers’ market tomatoes in the fridge. Hop on over to Serious Eats to read up on the summer-long tomato test, and make sure to read the comments section — people are very passionate (read: slightly insane and oh-so-entertaining) about their tomato-storage practices.

Now, here I go, back to having the post-farmers’ market countertop-or-fridge crisis every freakin’ week.

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