How to keep a tomato fresh after cutting?
In this brief guide, we are going to answer ‘how to keep your tomato fresh after cutting?’ Also, we will see some other possible ways to store cut tomatoes.
How to keep a tomato fresh after cutting?
To keep a tomato fresh after cutting, it is best to place your tomatoes in an airtight plastic container or a zip-lock bag. Place the container or fridge in the refrigerator at a temperature below 41 degrees F or 4 degrees C. Make sure to use these within 2 to 3 days, but if stored at 0 °C, aroma, appearance, overall quality and microbial stability could be maintained after 7 days (1).
What happens after you cut the tomatoes?
After you cut the tomatoes, the respiration of the fruit does not seize, it rather accelerates. When preparing fruits and vegetables in operations such as peeling or cutting, there is an intense increase in the rate at which biochemical reactions occur that lead to browning, loss of texture, formation of unpleasant taste (oxidation of lipids, enzymatic reactions of protein degradation) (5).
In addition, through handling, microbial contamination of the fruit tissues increases, leading to rapid deterioration due to the action of these microorganisms, such as yeasts and bacteria.
Why do we need to refrigerate cut tomatoes?
You need to refrigerate cut tomatoes because freshly sliced or cut tomatoes fall under TCS food items. TCS foods stand for ‘time/temperature control for safety’; meaning that the time and temperature at which the food is stored needs to be carefully monitored. TCS was previously known as “potentially hazardous foods”. A food that is not heat treated or that is heat treated but not packaged should be considered a TCS food when its combination of pH values and water activity favor the growth of hazardous microorganisms (2).
It is applied to those food items that are highly susceptible and may carry potentially harmful pathogens leading to being unfit for consumption. Other TCS food items can be; sliced melons, fresh proteins (poultry, meat or fish), eggs, dairy products and some heat-treated foods like; rice, beans and other vegetables.
It is suggested to not leave TCS foods out at room temperature for more than 4 hours. Refrigeration at below 41 degrees F or 4 degrees C is required to maintain safe storage. Cut tomatoes, with pH values between 4.2 and 4.8 and a water activity value of approximately 0.99 are capable of supporting the growth of Salmonella enterica, which have caused food intoxications cases in the United States, including hospitalizations and deaths (2).
How can you ensure the maximum shelf life of cut tomatoes?
To ensure the maximum shelf life of cut tomatoes, it is necessary to observe the sanitary conditions of food handling, following the recommended hygiene practices for the prevention of the transmission of foodborne illness. This is needed during the whole preparation process of the cut tomatoes (6):
- Before you start, wash your hands carefully with water and soup.
- Wash all the utensils that will be used, such as knife, cutbord, etc. with soap and water and sanitize them with a sanitizing solution
- Select tomatoes free from spoilage or decay, wash the fruits with running water and soap. Rinse.
- Immerse the tomatoes in clean water containing sanitizer solution, such as sodium hypochlorite (1.4 mg/L) for 15 minutes.
- Cut the tomatoes and place them in clean plastic containers
- Store the cut tomatoes immediately in the refrigerator.
Are stored cut tomatoes no longer nutritious?
Stored cut tomatoes are still nutritious, however, they are less nutritious than freshly cut or uncut tomatoes. As a result of cutting and other operations, cut tomatoes undergo several physiological changes and biochemical reactions, which may decrease their nutritional quality. In addition, microbiological spoilage occurs and may result in degradation of color, texture, and flavor.
According to studies, the concentrations of vitamin C, lycopene and antioxidants decrease rapidly in cut tomatoes during storage (7).
Can you freeze tomatoes to retain their freshness?
Freezing fresh tomatoes, whether as a whole, sliced, chopped or diced, is not suggested. As after thawing you are left with a mushy end product that is not appealing to look at let alone taste. Tomatoes lose their appearance, their integrity and become soft and mushy.
Although freezing is recommended to preserve food products, it is not always possible to maintain the quality of frozen products. By freezing, ice crystals can disrupt cell membrane and tissue integrity, causing undesirable physicochemical changes that result in irreversible quality loss. There is also loss of nutritional aspects, such as antioxidant (lycopene) content, color change, and texture degradation (3).
You may process tomatoes, like make some tomato puree or tomato paste, then place it in an airtight container and freeze, if you are planning to store it for a longer duration.
How long does it take to store whole tomatoes in the fridge?
Whole ripe tomatoes can be stored in the fridge for 7 days (4). Just make sure you are storing them in the vegetable shelf provided in your fridge and the thermostat is set below 41 degrees F or 4 degrees C.
In this brief guide, we answered ‘how to keep your tomato fresh after cutting?’ Also, we have seen a few other possible ways to store cut tomatoes.
Hopefully, you found this guide informative and helpful. In case of any queries or questions, please do let us know.
- Odriozola‐Serrano, Isabel, Robert Soliva‐Fortuny, and Olga Martín‐Belloso. Antioxidant properties and shelf‐life extension of fresh‐cut tomatoes stored at different temperatures. J Sci Food Agri , 2008, 88, 2606-2614
- Salazar, Joelle K., et al. Growth kinetics of Listeria monocytogenes in cut produce. J Food Protec, 2017, 80, 1328-1336.
- Li, Juan, et al. Development of a combined osmotic dehydration and cryogenic freezing process for minimizing quality changes during freezing with application to fruits and vegetables. J Food Process Preserv, 2017, 41, e12926.
- Kilcast, David, and Persis Subramaniam, eds. The stability and shelf-life of food. 2000.
- Aguayo, Encarna, Víctor Escalona, and Francisco Artés. Quality of fresh-cut tomato as affected by type of cut, packaging, temperature and storage time. Euro Food Res Technol, 2004, 219, 492-499.
- Employee Health and Personal Hygiene Handbook. Food and Drug Administration. 2022.
- Ahmed, Lubna, et al. Quality and nutritional status of fresh-cut tomato as affected by spraying of delactosed whey permeate compared to industrial washing treatment. Food Bioproc Technol, 2012, 5, 3103-3114.