Should Ripe Tomatoes Go in the Fridge? Scientific Testing Seeks to Resolve the Debate

Research team from the University of Göttingen investigates the influence of storage on the flavor of ripe tomatoes.

Greenhouse Full of Plants

There is a lot of debate about the correct storage of tomatoes. Credit: Division of Quality of Plant Products, University of Göttingen

There is much debate about the correct storage of tomatoes. There are two main options available to consumers: storage in the refrigerator or at room temperature.

A research team from the University of Göttingen has now investigated whether there are differences in the flavor of ripe tomatoes depending on how they are stored and taking into account the chain of harvesting from farm to fork. No perceptible difference was found: the variety of tomato is much more important.

Rows of Tomato Plants

If we want to know about flavour, the variety of tomato is the most important consideration. Credit: Division of Quality of Plant Products, University of Göttingen

How does the flavor change when ripe, picked tomatoes go through a commercial post-harvest chain and are then stored either in the refrigerator (7 degrees Celsius) or at room temperature (20 degrees Celsius)?

Researchers from the Division of Quality of Plant Products at the University of Göttingen analyzed flavor-related attributes in new tomato strains drawing on the expertise of a “sensory panel.” The sensory panel consisted of experienced and trained assessors who use their senses to perceive and evaluate the sensory properties of products.

Among other attributes, this panel examined the discernible sweetness, acidity, and juiciness of tomatoes. No significant differences in flavor were found between the two storage options when the entire post-harvest chain is taken into account.

Tomatoes Cut Into Four Pieces

Keep your tomatoes in the fridge or in the fruit bowl? The expert panel didn’t find a huge difference in flavor. Credit: Division of Quality of Plant Products, University of Göttingen

“It is the variety of tomato in particular that has an important influence on the flavor. Therefore, the development of new varieties with an appealing flavor can be a step towards improving the flavor quality of tomatoes,” says Larissa Kanski, lead author of the study.

“The shorter the storage period, the better it is for the flavor and related attributes. 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 flavor,” reports Head of Division Professor Elke Pawelzik.

Reference: “Flavor-Related Quality Attributes of Ripe Tomatoes Are Not Significantly Affected Under Two Common Household Conditions” by Larissa Kanski, Marcel Naumann and Elke Pawelzik, Frontiers in Plant Science.

DOI: 10.3389/fpls.2020.00472

The study is part of the PETRAq+n – project (Partizipative Entwicklung von QualitätsTomaten für den nachhaltigen regionalen Anbau), which is financially supported by the Ministry for Science and Culture of Lower Saxony (VWZN3255).

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