I ‘ve been told for thus long, by then many people, not to refrigerate my tomatoes that I ‘m not certain if I ‘ve ever done anything other than leave them on my counter. But the question has made me think spinal column on it, and to be honest, I can remember losing quite a few beautiful summer tomatoes over the years to rapid decompose and decomposition, because they were sitting out in sweltering heat .
And I think this gets right to the core of the trouble with this govern : While refrigerators tend to operate within a narrow dance band of temperatures, normally in the 35-to-40°F ( 2-to-4°C ) zone, the actual temperature of most rooms can range anywhere from about 60°F ( 16°C ) to upwards of 100°F ( 38°C ), particularly if it ‘s an un-air-conditioned space at the stature of summer. proper now, for example, I ‘m typing this while sitting in my sweltering apartment, and I ‘d guess—based on the come of perspiration soaking from my lower back into my chair—that it ‘s at least 90° in here. Is 90°F in truth better for a tomato than 37°F ? And if thus, for how long ?
To answer these questions, I set up a series of experiments that spanned an integral summer and included literally hundreds upon hundreds of tomatoes of different sources, varieties, and quality and ripen levels, and recruited a small united states army of blind-tasters to evaluate the results. I even asked Kenji to run the same tests over in California, just to make sure my results were reproducible .
Before I get to my testing details, let me foremost explain my results and offer some recommendations, right up front. They ’ re controversial only because they buck what has become conventional and deep-rooted wisdom ; but in truth, what I found makes a lot of sense .
How to Store Tomatoes (and Whether to Refrigerate Them)
Should You Refrigerate Tomatoes ? hera ’ s the Short Answer
If your tomatoes have never been refrigerated ( i.e., if you grew them yourself or bought them from a farmers market stand you trust, in temper ) :
- Remove the stems and store unripe tomatoes upside down on a plate or cutting board at room temperature until they fully ripen. (Why upside down? Read Kenji’s article on why stem side down is best.)
- Consume fully ripened tomatoes immediately.
- Refrigerate any unconsumed fully ripe tomatoes, but allow them to come to room temperature before serving them. (To speed up this process, slice them while still cold—slices will warm up much more quickly than an intact fruit.) One study we’ve read suggests that refrigerating for no longer than three days is optimal.*
If your tomatoes have been refrigerated ( i.e., if you got them anywhere other than your backyard or the farmers market, in season ) :
- Leave them at room temperature until fully ripe, then store them in the refrigerator until ready to use.
* If you are inclined to read the wide study, you can do sol here. But this is the relevant quote : “ Red ripe fruits were stored at 5°C for 1, 3, or 7 d followed by a convalescence menstruation of either 1 or 3 five hundred at 20°C, and volatiles were measured. Compared with the day of harvest ( day 0 ), no significant loss of spirit explosive content was observed after 1 or 3 five hundred of cold storage. ”
It ‘s a simple as that. now, here ‘s the ( abbreviated, for now ) explanation .
A refrigerator is cold—colder than is ideal for tomatoes. This is a basic fact, and it ’ s the fact upon which the “ never refrigerate a tomato ” rule is based. But that rule fails to acknowledge several real-world conditions that can complicate things. It besides fails to recognize that not all tomatoes are affected by refrigeration evenly .
then here ’ s what you need to know : Leave your tomatoes at room temp for deoxyadenosine monophosphate long as possible, particularly if they ’ re however a little shy of hitting their vertex ripen. Once they hit their apex, though, you need to either eat them properly away or refrigerate them. The refrigerator can buy you some time before the tomatoes begin to break down and finally rot—something that can happen several hours after the tomato has peaked. And a refrigerated ripe tomato holds up and tastes better than one that has been left out at room temperature beyond its prime, specially if you allow the refrigerate one to return to room temperature before eating it .
And here ’ s the other thing to know : The refrigerator is not bang-up for tomatoes—it can degrade their texture and dampen their flavor—but it ’ second far more harmful to lower-quality and underripe tomatoes than it is to truly ripe, delectable ones. high-grade, in-season, picked-straight-from-the-vine ripe tomatoes do much better in the electric refrigerator than most conventional tomatoes from large industrial operations .
Test 1 : conventional Tomatoes
To run my first tomato experiment, I went out and bought three different varieties of tomato : first, run-of-the-mill conservatory tomatoes—you know, the kind that typically get sliced and served on bum delicatessen sandwiches ; plum tomatoes ; and, last, some cerise tomatoes that came in a plastic clamshell and tried to look fondness by equitable barely holding on to their exsiccate vine. ( Nothing says farm-fresh like a dried-up, desiccated stem. )
I bought several of each variety show, selecting similar-looking specimens to minimize variations in ripeness—fairly comfortable, given that these were all reasonably icky so far highly invariable mass-market fruit. In terms of relative choice, the cherry tomatoes were the best, the plums in the center, and the standard ones were the worst .
I took them binding to my mother ’ second place, where the central air is set to about 75 to 80°F ( 24 to 27°C ). I put half of each kind in the electric refrigerator and the early half out on the buffet .
After 1 Day of repositing
After letting the tomatoes sit in their respective environments for a sidereal day, I sat my ma and sister down and asked them to taste and rate my tomato samples, which I served to them blind. To make indisputable the cold of the refrigerator did n’t sway their votes, I let the cool tomatoes warm up to board temp before proceeding with the taste .
After 24 hours, the buffet tomato, at exit, was redder than its refrigerator counterpart .
even before cutting into the tomatoes, I could see some differences. The standard tomatoes, for case, had turned crimson on the counter than they had in the electric refrigerator, though the deviation was subtle. Note the yellow flecks on the skin of the refrigerator tomato on the right, compared with the crimson skin of the countertop tomato on the leave .
The plum tomatoes showed a exchangeable effect, with the countertop ones ( at left in the photograph above ) redder than the chill ones to the right. The solid cerise tomatoes, meanwhile, were harder to tell apart by sight .
once I cut into them, a exchangeable practice emerged :
here, the refrigerated sample distribution is to the exit, with a slightly lighter, less red tinge, though the deviation is barely barely visible .
Inside, the criterion tomato looked slightly more yellow and pale in the refrigerate sample than the countertop one, though both looked mealy and not particularly good .
Refrigerated plumb tomato, left, and countertop at right .
The clean tomato showed the most drastic ocular dispute, with the refrigerate sample appearing more white and farinaceous in its flesh than the countertop one .
here ‘s an flush closer look at the plum tomato, again with the refrigerate sample to the leave .
Cherry tomato .
The red tomatoes showed the least remainder, with a just scantily perceptible increase in inflammation in the countertop sample distribution ( at left ) .
As for the taste-test results ? Well, beginning, my ma was disqualified because she kept rejecting all the tomatoes, careless of storage method acting, while reminiscing about what they used to taste like in the farmlands of Maryland where she grew up in the ’40s and ’50s .
My sister, thankfully, was able to focus on the tax at hand—analyzing the relative, not absolute, merits of these tomatoes—and give me her opinion. In each sheath, the tomato she picked as her favorite was the countertop sample : not once did the refrigerator sample come out on peak. She found the countertop ones to be more aromatic and dulcet, with a better texture, than the refrigerate ones, though she said the differences were n’t as apparent with the cherry tomatoes .
My own taste of the samples backed her choices up, and she and I walked away with a few observations :
- First, a truly mediocre tomato, like the standard ones here, cannot be turned into a good tomato, no matter how you store it.
- A tomato that is just fine, but not great, like the plums I bought, can benefit quite a bit from being left out at room temp.
- Better-tasting tomatoes, like the cherries in this test, aren’t as adversely affected by cold temperatures.
- Another detail that my sister pointed out: Tomatoes with more flesh and less seed jelly, like the standard ones here, are more likely to suffer textural degradation than varieties with very little flesh and more seed jelly, like the cherries.
so far, my trial results were as I ‘d expected .
The Unexpected Turn After 2 Days of storehouse
It was at this point that I thought I ‘d repeat my tasting after another day, confirm all my findings, and be done with it. so, a sidereal day late, I sat my class down again—this time my baby, stepfather, and mother ( who, I explained to her, could only participate if she forgot about those fabulous Maryland tomatoes and focused on the ones in front of her ) .
once again, I let the refrigerated tomatoes warm up to room temperature before serving them alongside the countertop ones. But this clock, I besides stuck some of my countertop ones in the electric refrigerator a copulate hours earlier, to compare concisely chilled countertop ones to room-temp multi-day-refrigerated ones. I served all the tomato samples blind .
And the weirdest thing happened : My baby reversed all her picks from the sidereal day before, and systematically selected the refrigerate tomatoes as her favorites this time. What ?
Confused, I sat down at the table and asked my sister to serve me the samples blind. here ‘s what ‘s even more eldritch : Because I had been slicing, smelling, and tasting the tomatoes as I served them, I was able to correctly differentiate the refrigerated and countertop samples every time by smell alone. But flush though I could tell them apart, I had to agree with my sister—the refrigerated ones were better that day, in all cases .
indeed, in the case of these three types of conventional supermarket tomatoes, the refrigerator initially made them worse, but with extra time the refrigerate ones became better than the countertop ones .
What Gives ?
One possibility with this initial set up of test results is that, because my ma ‘s home was a warmish 75 to 80°F, the inflame started to take its bell on my countertop samples once enough meter had elapsed .
As I ‘ve reviewed some tomato literature, this explanation starts to make some sense, though I have n’t verified that it ‘s correct. What most studies have found is that storehouse temperatures can affect both a tomato ‘s texture and its fickle aromatics ( which are creditworthy for its complex scent ), with cold temperatures degrading the volatiles more promptly .
According to this report from the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis, firm, ripe tomatoes are best held at anywhere from 44 to 50°F ( 7 to 10°C ), which is higher than electric refrigerator temperature but lower than most rooms. ( The reputation says to store less advanced tomatoes at higher temperatures, which supports my above observation that good tomatoes can withstand the cold, while less advanced ones benefit from some heat. ) This french cogitation, meanwhile, found that 4°C ( 39°F ) temperatures are a lot more harmful to volatiles in the tomato than 20°C ( 68°F ), though it besides found that letting refrigerated tomatoes sit out for 24 hours at 68°F reversed some of the ill effects .
But what the studies I ‘ve found fail to explore is the effect of even higher temperatures on tomato memory. That may not be a problem for tomato and produce companies with refrigerate trucks and warehouses, but it is a problem for those of us at home, since not all of us with tune conditioning have the thermostat set deoxyadenosine monophosphate low as 68°F, or even have it running 24/7 ; some of us, like me, do n’t have air out conditioning at all. Given that tomatoes ripen in the summer, the challenge is that we ‘re trying to store them at home during a season characterized by intense estrus, and we do n’t normally have memory conditions in the 44-to-50°F range .
This article from Business Insider illustrates my point good : The scientist quoted in the piece, who is recommending that we not refrigerate our tomatoes, casually defines normal kitchen temperature as between 68 and 73°F ( 20 and 23°C ). That is a chilly kitchen—colder than most kitchens I ’ ve visited in the summer ! Unless you ‘re blasting your AC 24/7 from July through September, it ‘s credibly colder than your kitchen, excessively .
Test 2 : In-Season, Local Tomatoes
My first quiz delivered some surprises, but it was based on just a few varieties of lesser-quality supermarket tomatoes, which left some questions unanswered. specifically : How does this wisdom apply to truly effective, farm-fresh tomatoes that are absolutely advanced and fix to eat, and are there any more useful guidelines for storing tomatoes ?
To find out, I spent the next respective weeks loading up on all kinds of fantastic tomatoes. Every time I went to the farmers market, I ‘d buy as many tomatoes as I could carry, then leave half on the counter and half in the electric refrigerator for at least a day before tasting them .
photograph : Daniel Gritzer
You ‘d think that there ‘d be many studies out there that spirit at the effects of storehouse on in truth great, ripe-picked tomatoes that have come square from the grow, but as it turns out, most of the inquiry money out there goes toward studying the effects of storage on the average, picked-when-still-green supermarket tomato. My tests would try to fill in the gaps .
In all, I ran 11 different rounds of tests, each of which included several types of tomato, from hybrids like beefsteaks to many different heirloom varieties in all shapes and sizes. In all cases, the tomatoes were bought in full advanced from the farmers market. I kept half the tomatoes on the counter and half in the electric refrigerator. I conducted eight of the tastings after a approximately 24-hour storage period, and the remaining four tastings after two or more days of storage ( with no tastings after longer than four days of storage ). Like tomatoes were always compared with comparable ( so, no pitting a beefsteak against a cerise tomato ), and all refrigerated tomatoes were allowed to come to room temperature before serving, to eliminate temperature bias. When other tasters were present, which was true the majority of the fourth dimension, everyone but the waiter tasted blind.
here are the basic results :
- In one out of 11 tests, tasters unanimously chose the countertop tomatoes over the refrigerated ones. This was one of the batches stored for 24 hours.
- In five out of 11 tests, tasters unanimously preferred the refrigerated tomatoes—the countertop tomatoes tasted flat and dull in comparison.
- The remaining five tests yielded either split votes or an inability to differentiate between the two samples. In all instances where the votes were split, no tasters had strong convictions about which tomato was better, so I’m considering all five of these cases in which the refrigerator and the countertop tomatoes were essentially indistinguishable from each other.
These results shot with my original hypothesis : Because peak-season farmers market tomatoes are already absolutely ripe, they benefit very short from supernumerary prison term in the inflame, and in many cases they are harmed by it, while the refrigerator does minimal injury once tomatoes are ripe. even the texture of the ripe tomatoes was not perceptibly affected by the refrigerator .
Let me leave you with one lasting persona that, all on its own, should illustrate my point. Below, you can see the proportional merits of antagonistic versus refrigerator storage at the four-day bell ringer on a pair of tomatoes that started out equitable about equally ripe. The countertop tomato is degrading more cursorily due to its high-heat environment .
photograph : Daniel Gritzer
Great, you might be thinking. You barely showed that tomatoes rot faster at room temperature than in the refrigerator. big whoop … But that ’ s precisely the charge : If you ‘re buying your tomatoes ripe ( which we should all be doing ! ) and need to store them for an supernumerary day or two, you ‘re much better off storing them in the electric refrigerator than on the countertop .
Where Do We Stand now ?
The question of whether to refrigerate tomatoes or not is truly a motion of which is the lesser of two evils. I have little doubt that food scientists are correct, and that the ideal storehouse temperature for tomatoes is somewhere between 55 and 70°F ( 13 and 21°C ) —at least for supermarket tomatoes. But I besides know that few of us maintain such systematically cool temperatures at home. If you have a chili basement or a wine electric refrigerator, then count yourself lucky. If your thermostat is always set that broken, then I do n’t want to see your electric bill. The rest of us have a option : warm ( or flush sweltering ) buffet, or too-cold electric refrigerator. once your tomatoes are advanced, the electric refrigerator is normally your best count .
Based on my tests, here are some more in full fleshed-out tomato-storage guidelines :
- If at all possible, buy only as many perfectly ripe tomatoes as you can eat within a day or two, keep them stored stem side down on a flat surface at room temperature, and make sure to eat them all within the first day or two.
- If you buy underripe tomatoes, leave them out at room temperature until they’re fully ripened, then move them to a cooler spot for longer storage.
- If you have a wine fridge or cool cellar, store all ripe tomatoes that you can’t eat within the first day there.
- If you don’t have a wine fridge or cool cellar, store all ripe tomatoes that you can’t eat within the first day in the refrigerator.
- If you’re storing tomatoes in the refrigerator, it may be better to locate them on a top shelf near the door, which is often warmer than the bottom and back of the fridge.
- If you’re the kind of person who can’t stand eating fridge-cold tomatoes and doesn’t have the time or patience to let them warm back up on the counter, then you’ve got some tough decisions ahead of you, I’m afraid.
Test 3 : In Search of More Data
My tomato tests were challenging the long-held idea that a tomato should never see the inside of a refrigerator, but I silent needed more data .
After all, more data is always a commodity thing, and reproducibility is the foundation of any reliable experimental consequence. I decided to run more tests, and asked Kenji to run some over on the West Coast, just to see if he would get similar results as mine. Either my initial observations would hold, or I ‘d have to revise them .
Kenji and I split up the tasks. hera on the East Coast, I went to the farmers commercialize and bought a big load of both regular loss tomatoes and a diverseness of heirlooms. * * My plan was to do one giant blind taste in the position, with as many people as I could wrangle, and more quantitative measures ( as opposed to the strictly qualitative assessments I had done earlier in the summer ). then I ‘d follow that with some triangle tests to see merely how well tasters could in truth differentiate between refrigerated and room-temp samples .
* * For those wondering if I had bought icky tomatoes from a jobber at the market, it ‘s worth pointing out that NYC Greenmarket allows vendors to sell only produce they ‘ve grown themselves, and that I had talked to the farmers to confirm the tomatoes had not been previously refrigerated .
meanwhile, over yonder in the Bay Area, Kenji went and picked his own tomatoes directly from the vine, fair to remove any tarry question about the handling practices of the middlemen. He then did his own blind tastings with those tomatoes. He besides examined the refrigerated tomatoes for signs of mealiness .
therefore, what were our results ? shocker ! The refrigerator even international relations and security network ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate a evil as the never-refrigerate dominion makes it seem .
My East Coast Tests
When I ran my initial series of tests, it was at the height of summer in New York City, with temperatures well above 80°F ( 27°C ). Without air travel condition in my apartment, I found that more often than not, refrigerated ripe tomatoes tasted better than ones that continued to sit out on the counter, suggesting that in instances in which room temperature was above roughly 80°F, refrigeration was frequently preferable. * * *
* * * Remember, I had found several scientific studies that compared refrigeration to “ room-temperature ” conditions, in which the room-temp conditions were all below 70°F ( 21°C ), colder than many summer rooms in actual life ; I had n’t found a one study that compared refrigeration to warmer storehouse conditions. I besides found no studies that examined sincerely good tomatoes—they seemed to have all been designed with the concerns of large-scale tomato growers, who pick their tomatoes while distillery greens, in mind, and not the concerns of those of us at home .
But when I went away to run this latest round of tests, temperatures in New York had fallen well, down to the 60s and 70s. My solid argument revolved around very hot summer conditions, and I had made no claim that the refrigerator was equal to or better than temps in the 70s and below. With conditions shifting, I wasn ’ thyroxine certain what I ’ five hundred see this time .
The Blind Tasting
As I mentioned above, I bought a variety show of tomatoes at the farmers market. Most of them were regular red slit tomatoes ; the rest were an assortment of heirlooms. Their quality was variable. I put one-half of each type of tomato in the refrigerator and the other half out on the counter. The next day, I took the refrigerate ones out and let them come back up to room temperature .
I then cut up each tomato and assigned it a number. I had 10 tasters work their way through the samples, each in a different order, to ensure that no single tomato was disadvantaged ascribable to tasters ‘ palate fatigue. Tasters evaluated the tomatoes on a scale of one to 10 on four criteria : overall preference, spirit, aroma, and texture. The overall-preference score aligned about precisely with the early scores, so the below chart shows the overall-preference score, since the others look reasonably a lot the same :
Tasters ‘ overall preference of Refrigerated Versus Unrefrigerated Tomatoes .
Before going into the specifics, I want to reiterate that this test compared tomatoes stored at temperatures in the broken 70s to refrigerated ones, basically pitting refrigerated tomatoes against much more ideal conditions than in my previous tests .
rather of seeing a clear and decisive dispute between refrigerated tomatoes and counter tomatoes, the differences were very small. On average, the counter tomatoes just barely edged out the refrigerate ones, except with the little scandalmongering heirloom tomatoes, in which subject the refrigerated ones received the highest median score. That was besides the highest median grudge of all the tomatoes, which means that even when compared with much more ideal conditions, refrigerated tomatoes are capable of coming out on top : absolutely not what we ‘d expect if refrigeration were truly ampere bad as the coarse wisdom of solomon claims .
Of all the tomatoes in the taste, all of us ( the 10 tasters plus me ) agreed, unanimously, that the small yellow tomatoes—the ones that scored highest in the electric refrigerator and out—were the best .
interim, the basic red tomatoes were the worst in terms of overall quality, and they besides were the set in which the refrigerated tomatoes scored the lowest. This lends foster support to my theory that the higher-quality and riper the tomato, the less harm the refrigerator will do to it .
Simply put, actually good, ripe tomatoes tend to do well in the refrigerator, while lower-quality tomatoes remain bad or get worse in the electric refrigerator : Underripe tomatoes continue to be underripe, and farinaceous tomatoes become mealy .
One more identical important detail : What the chart above shows are average scores. But within each group, there was a luminary division. For the loss tomatoes, for example, I had individual refrigerated samples that scored equally high as 5.5, and countertop tomatoes that scored deoxyadenosine monophosphate low as 3.6. so while the countertop tomatoes slenderly edged out the refrigerate ones when averaged in concert, the distribution of individual tomato scores was a lot less reproducible, careless of storage method acting. This, besides, suggests that the fruit itself is the bigger factor in how it will handle storage conditions, not some blanket rule about the repositing conditions themselves .
The Triangle Tests
adjacent up, the triangle test, which determines whether blind-tasters can pick the odd sample out through many rounds of tasting. I was n’t wholly convinced there was an advantage to this trial : I had never claimed that refrigerated tomatoes were going to always be indistinguishable from room-temp ones. In my earlier tests, we were ineffective to differentiate between refrigerated and unrefrigerated about half the fourth dimension. But in the other instances, the differences were apparent ; it ‘s just that in those cases, we tended to like the refrigerated ones more .
silent, I figured there was no harm in trying a triangulum trial out. I did a test discharge on Max one night, using more of those not-so-great red tomatoes that I had set away. Max has a very good palate, so I was curious to see how he would do. In each taste beat, I presented Max with three slices of tomato in random order ( either two refrigerated and one countertop, or two countertop and one refrigerated ), and his job was to see if he could figure out which of the three was the odd one come out of the closet. After 12 rounds, Max had correctly identified the odd tomato six times, which is slightly better than gamble. ( In a triangle test, random guess should yield compensate answers one-third of the meter, which in this case would be four out of the 12 rounds. ) When he was able to correctly identify the tomato samples, he besides picked the rejoinder sample ( randomness ) as his predilection .
But when he got it improper, he sometimes picked refrigerate slices as his preference. This is reproducible with the blind-tasting results above : tied though the crimson counter tomatoes edged out the refrigerate ones overall, there were individual refrigerated samples within the blend that scored higher than some of the counterpunch samples .
But 12 rounds is n’t enough, so the following day I bought even more tomatoes, refrigerated half overnight, and then lined up five unlike tasters for a modern session of triangle screen, with 24 rounds entire. Out of 24 rounds, we ‘d expect random guessing to be correct eight times ( one-third of the sum number of rounds ). By the end of my session, my tasters had been chastise nine out of 24 times, performing just a hair above the random-guessing rate .
I ‘ll be good : As I was slicing the tomatoes for these tests, I felt that the differences were more apparent, but then again, I knew which was which. ( In some cases, I thought the counter tomatoes were adept ; in others, I thought the refrigerate ones were. ) What this examination shows is that once that cognition is removed, the differences can be subtle adequate that tasters have a very hard time telling refrigerated and countertop tomatoes apart. thus, while I do n’t believe that room-temp and refrigerated tomatoes are wholly indistinguishable, these tests indicate that the claims of atrocious effects of refrigeration on advanced tomatoes are exaggerated .
Kenji ‘s Tests
Out in the Bay Area, Kenji besides ran his tests, with tomatoes he picked directly off the vine himself. just as with my most late tests, Kenji ‘s theater is in the low 70s and mid-to-high 60s—theoretically ideal tomato-storage conditions. I ‘m going to let Kenji tell you in his own words :
“The tomatoes that I picked were fully ripe. I held them for two days, half in the fridge, half on the counter. I let the refrigerated tomatoes come back to room temp before tasting, then I did a blind taste test with six people. Of those six, two did simple side-by-side preference tests: They both picked the fridge tomatoes as superior. The other four did triangle tests: Of those, three correctly picked the odd tomato out, and all picked the refrigerated tomatoes as superior. The fourth person who did the triangle test selected the odd one out incorrectly, but she still picked the refrigerated tomato as her favorite.
“I also did a test slicing tomatoes open and checking them (subjectively) for mealiness as they warmed up. I didn’t notice any mealiness from a fully ripe tomato that had been put in the refrigerator.”
Kenji ‘s results support what I suggested above : Refrigerated and countertop tomatoes wo n’t constantly be identical, but even when they are, the refrigerator is n’t by any means guaranteed to be worse .
Our results from these latest tests are, honestly, as storm to me as I imagine they are to many of you reading this : Before these tests, I never, ever would have argued that tomatoes kept at a mild 70°F could be beaten by or mistaken for refrigerate tomatoes .
even here we have multiple tests, performed on two different coasts by two different people, with many different varieties of tomato, and that ‘s precisely what we ‘re seeing .
On the Value of Science and the Danger of Misusing It
Throughout this tomato-tasting have, I ‘ve reflected quite a bit on the role of skill in all of this .
science itself has done nothing amiss : It ‘s a beautiful system—the best one we ‘ve got—for answer questions about how reasonably much everything in the discernible universe works. But it ‘s easily for us to misuse it, and I think it ‘s good such a misapply that created this inflexible predominate about tomato memory in the first place. If you ‘ll bear with me, I ‘ll explain :
As I ‘ve written above, all of the academic studies I found on tomato storage were based on a narrow set of conditions : namely, tomatoes picked when underripe, and stored in temperatures below 70°F. Those studies concluded—and I ‘m uncoerced to believe that they ‘re correct—that those tomatoes are harmed by refrigeration and are dear stored at slenderly higher temperatures, in the 50s and 60s. The studies I found did n’t examine tomatoes that were picked when fully ripe, and they did n’t consider warmer storage temperatures, surely not above 80°F .
so what happens with these studies ? This is just a scenario I ‘ve made up, but it ‘s plausible to me, and it shows how the far we get from the original data, the more likely it is that the data will be misinterpreted : The big-ag tomato growers follow the research and begin storing their underripe tomatoes in cool temperatures ( but not vitamin a cold as a refrigerator ), and wholesalers do the lapp. Word gets to the produce seller : Do n’t refrigerate these tomatoes, it ‘s bad for them. then the grow seller tells the customer : Do n’t refrigerate your tomatoes, it ‘s bad for them .
But that last step is the problem : The don’t-refrigerate wisdom was thoroughly throughout the provide chain and kept the tomatoes in the best possible condition, but it does n’t necessarily apply to the retail customer with different repositing conditions at home, or to tomatoes that are picked when ripe—conditions that had not been tested in any scientific study I found .
Another case of the misuse of skill is in this Alton Brown Facebook directive : “ Do me a prefer : never put tomatoes in the refrigerator, ” he implores. “ If they drop below 50 degrees F, a flavor compound called ( Z ) -3-hexenal is just going to flip itself off like a chemical switch … permanently. ” Uh-oh, ( Z ) -3-hexenal gets switched off permanently ? That sounds in truth badly .
Let ’ s assume this thing about ( Z ) -3-hexenal is dependable. My interrogate is : so what ? In a complex biological structure like a tomato, am I supposed to believe that because one individual olfactory property atom goes dormant, that ‘s consequently a good adequate argue to never refrigerate a tomato ? What about all the thousands and thousands of other complex processes that are taking place in a tomato as it ages ? How can we possibly draw an actionable conclusion from one single factor in such an intricate system as a tomato ?
This is a problem in a lot of science-based journalism : Scientists perform a study and publish their results. Lay publications, looking to make that information relevant to the put person, try to find some kind of practical advice buried in the findings. Scientists have found that vitamins are crucial to the human body ? Take them as a pill ! Scientists have found that fat is badly ? Stop eating fatty ! Scientists have found that adipose tissue is n’t a bad as they thought ? Stop eating carbs !
The trouble is n’t necessarily with the scientists ; it ‘s with the people trying to give concrete advice about how to live and act based on the work of the scientists. It puts us in hot urine far besides often .
Tomato repositing : decision
none of my tests, nor Kenji ‘s, are rigorous adequate for publication in any kind of scientific diary, but I think we ‘ve each had well-defined adequate results that no one should at this point continue to believe that the no-refrigeration rule is always dependable. At the very least, the rule exaggerates the injury that a refrigerator does to ripe tomatoes, while not considering the sometimes greater harm that can befall that same tomato if left at room temperature—especially the warm that room gets .
As for me, next prison term tomato season rolls around, I ‘ll stick them in the electric refrigerator when it seems like they ‘re ripe enough. * * * * And I wo n’t feel a shred of shame about it .
Read more : Smoked Pork Shoulder
* * * * While I ’ thousand at it, I ’ ll besides be storing them in the electric refrigerator top polish, for reasons Kenji explains here .
Editor’s Note: This content was originally published as a three-part serial. It has since been condensed into a single article .