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).

Why do we need to refrigerate cut tomatoes?

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 to keep tomato halves fresh?

If you have used half of the tomato in breakfast and plan to use the other half in lunch or dinner you may keep the half tomato in a clean, dry bowl and may place your bowl over your countertop. 

This is only suggested when the room temperature is between 55 to 70 degrees F or is between 12 to 21 degrees C. Make sure the temperature remains consistent

You may also cover your bowl with plastic wrap or lay the exposed side flat on the plate. Also, you can cover your plate with another plate or paper towel to keep the fruit flies away.

If you are not planning to use the other half the same day then it is best to store the remaining half in the refrigerator in an airtight container. Just simply place your tomatoes in an airtight container and power with a plastic wrap or paper towel. You can use these halves for 2 days.

It is important to emphasize that temperatures (above 10 °C) in the home can affect the quality of fresh-cut products and favor the growth of microorganisms. Therefore tomatoes, when cut, should be maintained under refrigeration (temperatures of 4 °C or below) (1).

How to keep diced or cubed tomatoes fresh?

Diced or cubed tomatoes should also be placed in an airtight container and be placed in the refrigerator. Make sure to use the tomato within 2 to 3 days for optimal flavor and textural properties.

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.

Where should unripe tomatoes be stored?

Unripe tomatoes can either be used immediately or over your counter until the tomatoes ripen. Simply leave your unripe tomatoes to stem side down over a plate or kitchen board over your countertop and cover with either a kitchen towel or a cotton cloth. At temperatures of 12 – 15 °C, green tomatoes can be kept up to 2 weeks until they ripen. Ripen tomatoes should be kept under refrigeration (4).

Once the tomatoes are ripe it is advised to place them in the fridge until needed.

How to accelerate the ripening process?

Tomato is a climacteric fruit, can be harvested unripe and ripened artificially at a later stage. During ripening, the respiration of these fruits increases dramatically over a short period of time. Ethylene is a plant hormone that plays a key role in the ripening and senescence of fruits and vegetables. Climacteric fruits produce high levels of ethylene during initiation of ripening and the hormone is believed to stimulate and co-ordinate the physiological and biochemical changes which occur during ripening. Another strong climacteric fruit is banana (4). If you want to get ripe tomatoes faster, place a banana with them. Bananas are known to produce ethylene gas in abundance due to which the bananas tend to go bad much faster. You can place a banana with your unripe tomatoes in a paper bag. Roll up the ends of your paper bag and make sure to give a loose seal. Leave the bag in your kitchen over the countertop or near a warmer place up until the tomatoes reach your desired ripeness.

How long does it take to store whole tomatoes in the fridge?

Whole ripe tomatoes can be stored in the fridge for 73 to 4 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.

Conclusion

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.

Citation

  1. 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
  2. Salazar, Joelle K., et al. Growth kinetics of Listeria monocytogenes in cut produce. J Food Protec, 2017, 80, 1328-1336.
  3. 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.
  4. Kilcast, David, and Persis Subramaniam, eds. The stability and shelf-life of food. 2000.

Hi, I am Charlotte, I love cooking and in my previous life, I was a chef. I bring some of my experience to the recipes on this hub and answer your food questions.