Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Tips for Storing Tomatoes

We've pulled all of our tomato plants (sigh) and took home a bunch of green, somewhat orange and red tomatoes.  Looks like we'll have a few more soups, sauces, salsas, salads and sandwiches to enjoy - as long as we can store them properly, that is.

Here are a few tips we've discovered about storing tomatoes:

Tomato Storing Tips

Tip # 1 - Do not store split, punctured or damaged tomatoes, even the ones with just a tiny spot.  It only takes a couple of days for any tomato that has a wound to turn really, really nasty and spread mold and rot to your nice tomatoes.  Trust us, we know!  Two days after storing a batch of tomatoes I went to the basement to do laundry - that's when I learned just how critical this step is.  The smell was intense!

Tip # 2 - Place unripened tomatoes in a cool dark place.  We place ours in a single layer in a shallow cardboard box with a folded newspaper on top.  Our friend Chris, who is able to keep tomatoes for a very long time, wraps each one individually in newspaper and places them in a box.

Tip # 3 - Check and smell your tomatoes regularly to catch any trouble before it spreads.

Tip # 4 - Once the tomatoes are ripe - use them, they won't last very long once they are fully ripe.

Here's one final suggestion that my friend Kathy sent to me.  This tip is reprinted from Cook's Illustrated.  I haven't tested this theory myself, but it's worth try.

How can I prolong the shelf life of a tomato?

We’ve heard that storing a tomato with its stem end facing down can prolong shelf life. To test this theory, we placed one batch of tomatoes stem-end up and another stem-end down and stored them at room temperature. A week later, nearly all the stem-down tomatoes remained in perfect condition, while the stem-up tomatoes had shriveled and started to mold.

Why the difference? We surmised that the scar left on the tomato skin where the stem once grew provides both an escape for moisture and an entry point for mold and bacteria. Placing a tomato stem-end down blocks air from entering and moisture from exiting the scar.

To confirm this theory, we ran another test, this time comparing tomatoes stored stem-end down with another batch stored stem-end up, but with a piece of tape sealing off their scars. The taped, stem-end-up tomatoes survived just as well as the stem-end-down batch.

Storing a tomato stem-end up allows air to enter and consequently loses moisture, shortening shelf life.

Storing a tomato stem-end down (room temperature is best) prevents air from entering and moisture from exiting its scar, prolonging shelf life.


Donna said...

Hi Getty, we wash our tomatoes too - with a little, itty bit of bleach in the water. Seems to help prevent rot from spreading through the box. Great post!

Getty said...

Thanks for the tip Donna. I just checked my remaining tomatoes - a few funny looking stragglers that are red and ready to use. I think we'll have one final pasta dish tonight.