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Should You Refrigerate Tomatoes—The Age-Old Debate

My aunt swears that you should leave your tomatoes out on the counter, as well as several other members of my family. 

Through the years, conventional wisdom has touted that tomatoes are never to be put in the fridge.  It has always been assumed that they would become somewhat mealy and take on a different texture.

Harold McGee, the author of the book On Food and Cooking, suggests that we store tomatoes at a pleasant temperature of 55 degrees Fahrenheit.  However, in most homes, this temperature is somewhat challenging to achieve. 

Image: Good Housekeeping

When comparing the fact that most fridges are set between the temperatures of 35 degrees Fahrenheit and 38 degrees Fahrenheit, the outside room temperature usually runs closer to 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

With this said, we come back to the question at hand—should your tomatoes be left out on the counter, or should they be stored in your refrigerator?

If you happen to purchase unripe tomatoes and take them home to place directly into the fridge, the cold temperature will halt the ripening process, and as such, they will not get any better. 

There is also the fact that the cold will cause a fair amount of damage to the produce.  In this instance, you are better to let them set out on the counter to allow them to ripen a bit more.

Image: Gardeners World

On the other hand, if you purchase your tomatoes when they are ripe, by leaving them out on the counter, the warm temperature will spur them on to continue ripening and, eventually, rotten. 

In this case, you are better off putting them in the fridge and make sure to use them in a couple of days, to make sure they do not overripen.

If you choose the route of refrigerating your tomatoes, if you want your tomatoes to be as close as possible to their original state of tastiness, make sure to let them come back to room temperature before consuming.