Kate McHugh is a farmer’s granddaughter and the daughter of a beef trader. She is passionate about food and sustainability and founded KitchenHand.io, an app helping households save time, effort and money in the kitchen while avoiding discarded food. She offers her top tips for preserving the quality and taste of tomatoes.
Storing tomatoes: countertop vs refrigerator
Should you store tomatoes on the countertop or in the fridge? It’s a question many people have mulled over. Kate unequivocally advocates for storing tomatoes at room temperature on your kitchen benchtop, where they will be happy for about a week.
"Keep tomatoes on the kitchen benchtop. They will continue to develop flavour when stored this way," she says.
“Just about any store-bought tomato is better after a few days on the bench."
The cold environment of a refrigerator can stall the flavour development and lead to a powdery texture.
Vine side up or down?
Kate recommends purchasing truss tomatoes or those on the vine as they maintain their freshness better.
The best way to store tomatoes is vine side down. A crucial step is to inspect tomatoes for nicks, dings, and bruises and consume those first, as they don’t store as well.
Unwrapping tomatoes and letting them "breathe" is another key strategy.
"Don't put them in an airtight container. They are more likely to grow mould in a container or plastic packaging," warns Kate.
Ripening green tomatoes
As for ripening green tomatoes quickly, Kate has a hack for that.
"It is possible to accelerate tomato ripening by storing them with apples or bananas," she reveals.
Extending the shelf life of tomatoes
Temperature and humidity play crucial roles in extending the shelf life of tomatoes. Kate explains that tomatoes are stored between 5 and 10°C commercially to prevent premature ripening.
However, she says for optimal flavour and quality, "They are best stored at the temperatures they are grown, that is 18-28°C, or room temperature." Maintaining this ideal temperature range helps preserve the taste and texture of tomatoes.
While leaving tomatoes on the bench is best, if you have ripe tomatoes that you'd like to last a little longer, you can store them in the refrigerator for up to 2-3 days. Keep in mind that the quality and taste might still be affected.
How to preserve tomatoes
Throwing food in the bin contributes to an alarming waste of money, environmental resources, and climate impact.
Instead of throwing your overripe and wrinkly tomatoes in the bin, Kate says it’s perfectly fine to freeze them for later. While this can alter the texture, it can still be used for cooking, such as soups, pasta, and sauces.
“Cooked tomatoes store very well in the freezer, whether oven roasted, cooked into a sauce or otherwise.”
If you're planning on canning your tomatoes, here's Kate's top tip.
"For my grandma the top tip in canning any fruits, and tomatoes are a fruit, is to do them when they are at peak season and in peak condition. They are abundant and tastiest then and you’ll get a better result."
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