What Happens If You Refrigerate Tomatoes

Tomatoes are one of the most versatile fruits when it comes to cooking, yet one of the most vulnerable and imperiled when it comes to storage. In fact, there's something of a controversy over when and how they can be refrigerated. Some, like Martha Stewart, claim unequivocally that refrigerating tomatoes degrades their texture and dampens their flavor. This idea dates back to a study done at the University of Florida in 2016, and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a peer-reviewed scientific journal, which shows that tomatoes stored below 54 degrees Fahrenheit can suffer a chilling injury that alters their genetic expression and causes reduced quality of flavor and aroma.

According to The University of Arizona Cooperative Extension, tomatoes need ideal conditions to grow healthily, and temperatures below 55 degrees Fahrenheit are too low to do so. Now imagine tomatoes at 40 degrees, the recommended refrigerator temperature, per the FDA.

"You're essentially zapping flavor and texture from a tomato when you refrigerate it," said Gregory Lofts, deputy food editor at Martha Stewart Living.

The pros and cons of refrigerating tomatoes

But as Serious Eats notes, even though refrigeration isn't great for tomatoes, it has much more of a deleterious effect on unripe tomatoes than it does on ripe ones. The U.S. Department of Agriculture agrees, claiming tomatoes harvested when ripe maintain well under cool conditions, with 40 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit being ideal.

Martha Stewart, on the other hand, recommends storing tomatoes, ripe or unripe, at room temperature in order to enjoy them at peak flavor. "Tomatoes are most flavorful at peak ripeness and when stored at room temperature," Maddy Rotman, head of sustainability at Imperfect Foods, told the outlet. "Try eating a cold tomato and a room temperature tomato, you'll see that all the flavor of the tomato is hidden when it's cold and you can taste all of the sweetness when it's ambient."

Steamy Kitchen takes the middle ground in this debate, claiming tomatoes can benefit from refrigeration ... in a wine refrigerator at 65 degrees Fahrenheit.