Whether you have a green thumb or just frequent the farmers market (this is the best time to go!), you probably recognize the magical flavor of a fresh in-season tomato. Sweet, juicy, deliciously plump and nothing like those gritty cousins you’d find at the store. Guilty of eating ’em whole? We are, too—when we’re not using them up in these recipes that celebrate fresh tomatoes.
But how do you store tomatoes until you’re ready to get your fix? Our Test Kitchen experts have the answers:
Should You Store Tomatoes in the Refrigerator?
Not unless they’re fully ripe. Chilling stops ripening in its tracks, so unless your tomatoes are at their absolute peak of ripeness, you’ll never get a ripe tomato. However, if you have perfectly ripe tomatoes that you just don’t have time to use at that moment, you can store them in the fridge. A ripe tomato can last a day or two in the fridge without ill effects.
Don’t leave them to cool longer than a couple of days. Chilled tomatoes will start to dehydrate, so kiss that juicy tomato slice goodbye. Also, the flesh of the tomato will get mealy or mushy.
That being said, you should always eat tomatoes at room temperature for optimum flavor and texture. Just let them warm up to room temperature before slicing and putting on a salad or sandwich.
How to Store Tomatoes That Aren’t Ripe
Skip the fridge if tomatoes aren’t ripe. Store them at room temperature, instead. While it’s pretty to put tomatoes on a windowsill, you’re better off keeping your tomatoes in the basement or a cupboard. You want the tomatoes to continue to ripen after being picked, but you don’t want them to go so quickly that they’ll start to spoil.
Since these beauties are so delicate, you’ll also want to keep them in one single layer so their weight doesn’t crush their neighbors. If one does get a little smushed, use it before it causes the others to rot. Air movement is also key when it comes to freshness. A plate or wicker basket allows air to move around the tomatoes, resulting in slightly longer life.
Store tomatoes with the stems down. This helps prevent moisture from escaping through the stem. It also may help prevent any mold growth around the stem.
How to Store Tomatoes Long-Term
Our reader’s share their best tips for long-term tomato storage:
Put extra garden tomatoes in a plastic freezer bag and store in your freezer. To use in soup, stew or sauce, just hold the frozen tomatoes under warm water, and the skins will slip right off. Drop the whole skinless tomatoes into the pot-they’ll break up during cooking, which also saves time chopping. —Elaine T., Palmetto, Florida
When our garden is producing a bountiful harvest of tomatoes, I make tomato “muffins.” I ladle peeled and cored tomatoes into muffin pans and pop them in the freezer. When they’re solid, I take the tomatoes out of the pans and slip them into plastic bags, so they’re ready to add to soups, chili and other recipes. —Barbara Kynock, Centreville, Nova Scotia
To quickly use a huge supply of garden tomatoes, I wash and core them, then puree in the blender with lemon juice, onion and celery to taste. This makes a great vegetable juice. I simmer several batches until slightly thickened for spaghetti sauce or until very thick for pizza sauce. I store it in the freezer. —Marion W., Greenfield, Wisconsin