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How to Store Tomatoes: Tips for Keeping Your Harvest Fresh

Published: 09.04.2023

Learn how to store tomatoes long term, how long they last in the fridge, how to keep them fresh, and how to tell if they've gone bad.


Importance of Proper Tomato Storage

Proper tomato storage is important for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it helps to preserve the flavor and texture of your tomatoes. When stored properly, tomatoes can last for up to two weeks or longer. This means that you can enjoy your fresh, homegrown tomatoes even after the growing season has ended.

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Proper storage also helps to prevent spoilage and waste. Tomatoes that are not stored correctly can become overripe or develop mold, which can be both unsightly and unsafe to eat. By storing your tomatoes properly, you can avoid these issues and enjoy your harvest for longer.

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Common Mistakes to Avoid

There are several common mistakes that many people make when it comes to storing tomatoes. One of the biggest mistakes is storing them in the refrigerator. While it may seem logical to keep your tomatoes in the fridge, this can actually cause them to lose flavor and texture. Tomatoes should be stored at room temperature, ideally between 55 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

Another mistake is storing tomatoes in direct sunlight. This can cause them to ripen too quickly and become overripe. Instead, store your tomatoes in a cool, dark place such as a pantry or basement.

Overview of the Article

In this article, we will discuss several different methods for storing tomatoes, including storing them on the counter, in a paper bag, and in the refrigerator. We will also cover the best ways to prepare your tomatoes for storage, such as washing and drying them before storing.

Additionally, we will provide tips for extending the life of your tomatoes, such as removing any stems or leaves before storing and checking them regularly for signs of spoilage.

By following these tips and tricks, you can ensure that your homegrown tomatoes stay fresh and delicious for as long as possible.

How to Store Tomatoes Long Term

Best Containers for Storing Tomatoes

When it comes to storing tomatoes long-term, the container you choose is crucial. The ideal container should be able to keep the tomatoes fresh while also allowing for proper air circulation. Here are some of the best containers for storing tomatoes:

Choosing the Right Container

Glass jars, paper bags, and plastic containers are all suitable options for storing tomatoes. Glass jars are ideal because they allow for proper air circulation and don't emit any harmful chemicals. Paper bags are another good option as they help to absorb excess moisture and prevent rotting. Plastic containers, on the other hand, can be a bit tricky as they can trap in moisture and cause the tomatoes to go bad faster.

Ideal Temperature and Humidity Levels

Temperature and humidity levels are also important factors to consider when storing tomatoes long-term. Tomatoes should be stored at temperatures between 55-70°F with a humidity level of around 90%. If the temperature is too low, the tomatoes will become mealy and lose their flavor. If the temperature is too high, the tomatoes will ripen too quickly and spoil.

Preparing Tomatoes for Long-Term Storage

Before storing tomatoes, it's important to properly prepare them. Here are some steps you can take to ensure your tomatoes stay fresh for longer:

  • Wash and dry tomatoes thoroughly
  • Remove stems and leaves
  • Pack tomatoes in containers with enough space for air circulation

Tips for Controlling Humidity Levels

To maintain proper humidity levels when storing tomatoes, there are a few tips you can follow:

  • Use a dehumidifier if necessary
  • Store tomatoes in a cool, dry place
  • Avoid stacking tomatoes on top of each other

By following these guidelines, you can keep your tomatoes fresh and flavorful for up to two weeks. With a little bit of planning and preparation, you can enjoy delicious tomatoes all year round.

How Long Do Tomatoes Last in the Fridge?

Temperature and Humidity Levels in the Fridge

Tomatoes are a delicate fruit that requires proper storage to extend its shelf life. Storing tomatoes in the fridge is a great way to prolong their freshness, but it is essential to keep them in the right temperature and humidity levels. When stored at temperatures below 50°F, the texture and flavor of tomatoes can be affected. Additionally, high humidity can cause moisture buildup, leading to spoilage.

Signs that Tomatoes are Going Bad

Knowing when your tomatoes are going bad is crucial in preventing food waste. Spoiled tomatoes can harbor harmful bacteria that can cause foodborne illness. Some of the signs that your tomatoes are going bad include mold growth, off smells and flavors, and texture changes.

Ideal Temperature and Humidity Levels in the Fridge

To maintain the quality of your tomatoes in the fridge, it is recommended to store them at a temperature between 55°F and 70°F with a relative humidity of 90 percent. If your fridge has a humidity-controlled drawer, you can adjust it to the optimal level for storing your tomatoes.

Finding the Right Spot in the Fridge

The location of your tomatoes in the fridge also plays a significant role in their shelf life. It is best to keep them away from the coldest part of the fridge, such as the back or bottom shelf. Instead, store them on the top or middle shelves, where the temperature is more stable.

Tips for Reducing Moisture

Reducing moisture buildup in your fridge can help prevent spoilage and extend your tomatoes' shelf life. You can achieve this by storing your tomatoes in a container with a paper towel or placing them on a wire rack to allow air circulation. It is also recommended to avoid washing your tomatoes until you are ready to use them.

Signs That Tomatoes are Going Bad

Mold and other visual indicators, such as wrinkles or discoloration, are signs that your tomatoes are going bad. Off smells and flavors, such as sour or fermented, can also indicate spoilage. Additionally, if your tomatoes have a mushy or slimy texture, it is best to discard them.

How to Keep Tomatoes Fresh

Best practices for countertop storage

Storing tomatoes on the countertop is a great way to keep them fresh and flavorful. However, there are some best practices to follow to ensure they stay fresh as long as possible. Firstly, make sure the tomatoes are dry before storing them. Wet tomatoes can quickly develop mold, which can ruin the whole batch. Secondly, store them stem-side down. This will help prevent moisture from collecting around the stem, which can cause it to rot. Finally, avoid stacking the tomatoes on top of each other, as this can cause pressure points that can lead to bruising.

Reviving wilted tomatoes

If your tomatoes start to wilt, don't despair. There are a few things you can do to revive them and get them back to their fresh, juicy state. Firstly, try soaking them in ice water for 30 minutes. This can help rehydrate the tomatoes and make them crisp again. Alternatively, you could try cutting out any bad spots and roasting or grilling the tomatoes. This will help concentrate their flavor and make them taste more vibrant.

Countertop Storage Tips

Choosing the right spot to store your tomatoes on the countertop is key to keeping them fresh. Firstly, choose a cool spot that's away from direct sunlight. Too much heat and light can cause the tomatoes to ripen too quickly and become mushy. Secondly, keep ripe and unripe tomatoes separate. Ripe tomatoes release ethylene gas, which can cause unripe tomatoes to ripen too quickly.

Avoiding direct sunlight

Direct sunlight can be harmful to your tomatoes and cause them to ripen too quickly or even spoil. Instead, store your tomatoes in a cool spot that's away from windows or other sources of direct sunlight. This will help keep them fresh for longer.

Separating ripe and unripe tomatoes

Ripe and unripe tomatoes should be stored separately to prevent the ripe ones from causing the unripe ones to ripen too quickly. This can be done by storing them in different containers or simply keeping them in separate piles on the countertop.

Reviving Wilted Tomatoes

If your tomatoes start to wilt, there are a few things you can do to revive them. Firstly, try soaking them in ice water for 30 minutes. This can help rehydrate the tomatoes and make them crisp again. Secondly, try cutting out any bad spots and roasting or grilling the tomatoes. This will help concentrate their flavor and make them taste more vibrant.

Soaking in ice water

Soaking wilted tomatoes in ice water is a great way to revive them and make them crisp again. Simply fill a bowl with cold water and ice cubes and let the tomatoes soak for 30 minutes. Once they're done, pat them dry with a paper towel and they're ready to use.

Cutting out bad spots

If your tomatoes have started to develop bad spots, don't throw them away just yet. Instead, use a sharp knife to carefully cut out the affected area. This will help prevent the bad spot from spreading and ruining the rest of the tomato.

Roasting or grilling

If your tomatoes have wilted or started to lose their flavor, try roasting or grilling them. This will help concentrate their flavor and make them taste more vibrant. Simply cut the tomatoes into thick slices, brush with olive oil, and roast or grill until they're tender and slightly charred. Serve as a side dish or use in a recipe that calls for roasted or grilled tomatoes.

How to Tell if Tomatoes are Bad

Visual and Sensory Indicators of Spoilage

As a gardener, you know the joy of plucking a ripe, juicy tomato from the vine. However, it is important to inspect your tomatoes before storing them to prevent spoilage. The visual and sensory indicators of spoilage include mold and rot, color changes, and texture changes.

Mold and Rot

Mold and rot are the most apparent signs that your tomatoes are no longer fit for consumption. If you see any dark spots or fuzzy growth on the surface of your tomatoes, it's time to toss them out.

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Color Changes

Color changes can also indicate spoilage. Ripe tomatoes are bright red or yellow, but as they begin to spoil, they may turn brown or green.

Texture Changes

Texture changes can be harder to spot but are equally important. If your tomatoes feel mushy or soft, they are likely spoiled. Fresh tomatoes should be firm to the touch.

Common Causes of Spoilage

It's essential to understand the common causes of spoilage so that you can prevent it from happening. The most common causes of spoilage are bruising and damage, exposure to moisture, and overripeness.

Bruising and Damage

Tomatoes are delicate fruits that can be easily bruised or damaged during harvesting or transportation. These bruises provide an entry point for bacteria and fungi that cause spoilage.

Exposure to Moisture

Moisture is another factor that can lead to spoilage. Tomatoes should be stored in a dry location to prevent mold growth.


Finally, overripeness can also cause spoilage. Once a tomato has become too ripe, it will start to break down and decay quickly.

Tips for Using Up Excess Tomatoes

Creative Recipes and Ideas

If you have a surplus of tomatoes, there are many creative ways to use them up. One easy idea is to make homemade tomato sauce. You can use fresh tomatoes, garlic, onions, and herbs to make a delicious sauce that can be used in a variety of dishes. Another idea is to make a homemade salsa with fresh tomatoes, onions, jalapeños, and cilantro. You can serve it with chips or use it as a topping for tacos or grilled meats. You can also make a tomato-based soup or stew with fresh tomatoes, vegetables, and herbs.

Preserving Excess Tomatoes

If you have more tomatoes than you can use up right away, there are several methods for preserving them so that you can enjoy them later.

H4: Freezing Tomatoes

One easy way to preserve excess tomatoes is to freeze them. Simply wash and dry the tomatoes, then place them in a freezer bag or container. You can freeze them whole or chop them up first. Frozen tomatoes are great for making sauces, soups, and stews.

H4: Canning Tomatoes

Another option for preserving excess tomatoes is to can them. This involves boiling the tomatoes in a jar with vinegar and other ingredients to create a shelf-stable product. Canned tomatoes can be used in a variety of dishes throughout the year.

H4: Drying Tomatoes

Drying tomatoes is another method for preserving them. You can dry them in a food dehydrator or in the oven at a low temperature. Once they are dried, you can store them in an airtight container and use them as a snack or to add flavor to salads and pasta dishes.

Tomato-Based Salads

Tomatoes are a great addition to salads, and there are many ways to use them in this capacity. One simple salad idea is to mix chopped tomatoes with cucumbers, red onions, and feta cheese. You can also make a Caprese salad with sliced tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and basil leaves.

Salsas and Sauces

Tomatoes are a key ingredient in many salsas and sauces. One easy salsa recipe is to mix chopped tomatoes, onions, jalapeños, and cilantro with lime juice and salt. You can also make a simple tomato sauce with canned tomatoes, garlic, onions, and herbs.

Tomato Soups and Stews

Tomatoes are a great base for soups and stews. One easy recipe is to saute onions and garlic in olive oil, then add chopped tomatoes, broth, and herbs. Simmer until the vegetables are tender, then blend with an immersion blender for a creamy soup.

Final Tips

Bonus Tips for Successful Tomato Storage

After harvesting your tomatoes, there are a few extra steps you can take to ensure they last longer in storage. Here are some bonus tips to help you get the most out of your tomato harvest:

Keep them dry: Moisture can cause tomatoes to spoil quickly, so be sure to wipe them dry with a clean cloth before storing.

Store stem-side down: When storing tomatoes, place them stem-side down to prevent moisture from accumulating around the stem, which can lead to rotting.

Keep them cool: Tomatoes should be stored at temperatures between 55-70°F. If the temperature is too high, they will ripen too quickly and spoil faster.

Do not refrigerate: Contrary to popular belief, tomatoes should not be stored in the refrigerator. This can cause the flesh to become mealy and the flavor to be compromised.

By following these bonus tips, you can extend the shelf life of your tomatoes and enjoy their delicious flavor for weeks to come.

Additional Resources for Home Gardeners

If you are new to home gardening or just looking for more information on tomato storage, there are plenty of resources available to help you out. Here are a few websites and books that I recommend:

The Old Farmer's Almanac - This website has a wealth of information on all aspects of gardening, including tips for growing and storing tomatoes.

The Vegetable Gardener's Bible by Edward C. Smith - This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know about growing vegetables, including tomatoes.

The Joy of Pickling by Linda Ziedrich - If you are interested in preserving your tomato harvest through pickling, this book is a must-read.

Your local extension office - Most states have an extension office that provides free resources and advice for gardeners in their area. Check with your local office for information on tomato storage and other gardening topics.

By taking advantage of these resources, you can become a more successful home gardener and enjoy delicious, fresh tomatoes all season long.

Author: Michael Chen
Bio: I'm gardening specialist with a mission to empower people to grow their own fruits and vegetables. With my background in Plant Science from the University of California and experience working with farmers and community gardens, I'm dedicated to promoting sustainable agriculture practices and helping individuals achieve bountiful harvests. Let's get growing!