Whether you have bought the tomatoes for preparing Caprese salad, tomato soup, juice, or to use for another dish or beverage, the chances are that you may have ended up with more fresh tomatoes than you need.
The question is – what to do with the leftover tomatoes? If you wonder how long tomatoes can last, how to store them properly to prolong their longevity, and how to tell if they have gone bad, then read on.
Since tomatoes are pretty delicate, you will need to handle them with care when storing them at home.
The first helpful tip to follow is to remember to leave any hard and unripened tomatoes at room temperature until they soften and ripen. This usually should take about 1-2 days. Once they are ripe and scrumptious enough, you should move them to the fridge, where they can be stored and will remain fresh for longer.
Here are some other guidelines for the best storage for preserving tomatoes and the telltale signs to look for when determining whether they are still good to eat or use for cooking.
Can tomatoes go bad?
Yes, just like all other plants, fruits, and veggies, tomatoes can spoil.
When they are stored fresh on the countertop or pantry, tomatoes can last for up to a week. If you store them in the refrigerator, then they can remain good for up to two weeks.
How to tell if the tomatoes have gone bad?
Use your senses to detect whether a tomato has gone bad or not. Here are three easy ways to tell whether you can still eat the tomato or will need to throw it out:
Smell the tomato
Smell the suspicious tomatoes, and sniff them especially closely around the stem. If the tomato smells moldy, sour, or off, then you should discard it.
Inspect the tomato
Look and examine the tomato closely. Keep an eye out for indicators of spoiling, such as mold spots, part discoloration, cracks, and other things.
In certain circumstances, you might be able to use the remaining tomato by cutting around a few small bruising and sunken areas. However, it is best to avoid consuming a tomato that appears to have gone bad if you want to be safe.
Tomatoes that are too ripe will start to crack. It is best to use them as soon as possible to prepare a cooked dish so that the softened texture won’t impair the flavor of your dinner as a whole.
Feel the tomato
Take the tomato in your hand and feel it gently. If the flesh is very soft and gives off even from a mild grip, then it probably has gone rancid.
Remember not to squeeze them too hard, though!
How long can tomatoes last?
The answer depends on the ripeness and condition of the tomatoes, as well as how you store them.
Tomatoes that are fully ripe and have become slightly soft and juicy can last outside the fridge for up to seven days. If you store them in the refrigerator, their shelf life can double and reach up to 14 days of storage.
If you prefer to keep the tomatoes at room temperature, make sure to keep them away from heat sources and direct sunlight to preserve their freshness, taste, and texture.
In case the tomatoes are still very hard and are not ripe enough, let them ripen on the counter for a couple of days before you proceed to store them in the refrigerator. This is important because keeping unripe tomatoes in the fridge will halt the ripening process and will ruin their texture, taste, and smell.
What is the best way to store tomatoes?
As mentioned earlier, when the tomatoes are fully ripe, you should store them in the refrigerator to prolong their longevity. When they are not quite ripe yet, keep them at room temperature until they are mature enough.
When storing the tomatoes, make sure that the temperature doesn’t fall below 55 degrees Fahrenheit. This temperature will affect their taste and texture unless you plan to process them or blanch them for freezing or canning.
If the tomatoes need to ripen, then store them on the counter. But remove them from any plastic packaging first. Place them in a dish or bowl but out of direct sunlight. Keep them there until they are ripe enough to use or to store in the fridge.
While it is possible to keep unripe tomatoes in the fridge, their taste and texture will not be as satisfying as they would if you wait for them to ripen completely.
In case you will be storing the fully ripe tomatoes on the counter, then again, remove them from any plastic bag or packaging and place them somewhere away from direct sunlight. Ensure that the fruits are not touching each other to prevent breaks and bruising.
The best way to store the ripe tomatoes in the refrigerator is to keep them in a veggie saver bag or in the vegetable drawer.
If you need to store cut tomatoes, then place them in an airtight container with a lid. They will usually last for about three days like that after being cut.
If you have overripe tomatoes, then either utilize them right away or store them in the refrigerator rather than at room temperature.
Should the tomatoes be kept in the fridge?
Yes, if the tomatoes are ripe or overripe, it is recommended that you store them in the fridge. This can double their shelf life.
To check whether the tomatoes are fully ripe, touch them gently, smell them and inspect them. Ripe tomatoes should be red, with firm skin and soft flesh.
If the tomatoes are not red or soft enough, let them ripen at room temperature out of the sun.
Related: Food Storing Guide: Storage Times For The Refrigerator And Freezer
How can you prolong the shelf life of tomatoes?
To make the ripe or overripe tomatoes last longer, keep them in the vegetable drawer in your fridge. The refrigeration will help stop the ripening process and will slow down the spoilage of the fruits.
Avoid keeping them in the coldest areas of the refrigerator. Temperatures lower than 55 degrees F can ruin their appearance, taste, and texture. This is because the low temperatures slow down the enzymes in them. The best way to use tomatoes that have been left at such low temperatures is to blanch them and freeze them or process them and can them.
Related: How Long Does Tomato Paste Last in the Fridge?
The best way to store cut tomatoes
If you have leftover cut tomatoes, the best way to preserve them for as long as possible is to keep them in the fridge.
Here is how to store cut tomatoes properly:
- Place them in an airtight container and close the lid
- Put the container in the refrigerator at a temperature of around 55 degrees Fahrenheit
- Avoid keeping them in the coldest areas of the fridge
- Make sure to utilize the cut tomatoes within the next three days after cutting and storing them
Tomatoes are flavorful, and juicy, and can add a unique taste, color, and texture to your dish or beverage.
But unfortunately, they are delicate and are prone to spoilage, especially when not stored properly.
Hopefully, we have helped you find the best way to preserve your tomatoes for the longest time possible and avoid some common mistakes people make when storing tomatoes.
Enjoy those delicious and healthy tomatoes!
Further Reading: How To Thicken Tomato Sauce