What is the scientific reason tomatoes should not be refrigerated?

Q. Can you explain the scientific reason that I should not store my fresh tomatoes in the refrigerator?


A. Tomatoes begin to lose their flavor after they’ve in the refrigerator for a few days - or even a few hours, so say some true aficionados. Their texture also gets grainy.

The culprit is an acid in tomatoes (lineolic acid) that turns to a compound (Z-3 hexenel) which gives tomatoes their taste. Cold hinders the process that the acid uses to turn into the compound. More cold = less transformation of lineolic acid to Z-3 = less tomatoey taste and smell.

One way to manage this is to remove tomatoes from the refrigerator about an hour or two before you plan to eat them. By setting them at room temperature you give any remaining lineolic acid the chance to turn into the compound, giving the tomato a final boost of flavor.

Try this experiment to test flavor for yourself:

  1. Pick 4 tomatoes - same variety, same ripeness.
  2. Taste one right away.
  3. Set one on the counter. Place two in the fridge.
  4. An hour later, remove one from the fridge.
    Taste the room-temperature, counter top tomato, the short-term fridge tomato, and the long-term fridge tomato against each other (remembering the flavor of the vine-eaten tomato).
  5. Decide for yourself!

What is the scientific reason tomatoes should not be refrigerated?
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