Study takes a new view on storing tomatoes in the fridge

It’s a well-known question: should tomatoes go in the fridge with other fruit, or not? A contentious new study suggests it might not matter where we put this fruit so long as it's picked when ripe. Whether in a fridge or a bowl, the data seem to show the tomato will taste the same.

Bringing together a panel of experienced tomato tasters, researchers had the experts assess  several breeds and cross-breeds of tomatoes, each of which was stored for four days at room temperature, or four days in the fridge at 7°C.

During this process, the panel was trained to objectively score slices of tomato against a list of eight attributes, including colour, sweetness, sourness, aftertaste, and juiciness. Contrary to what you'd expect, in the end the panel could not detect any flavour difference between tomatoes kept in the fridge and those left at room temperature.

In addition to the tongues of a dozen human experts, the team put the tomatoes through a run of other lab tests to measure volatiles, carotenoid levels, and sugar concentrations. They even used a fancy ASTREE Electronic Tongue for good measure.

"The shorter the storage period, the better it is for the flavour and related attributes," says crop scientist Elke Pawelzik from the University of Göttingen in Germany. "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 flavour."

Unlike previous studies, which found refrigeration had a negative impact on a tomato's flavour, the fruits used in Pawelzik's research were tracked throughout the post-harvest process.

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