New Research Says You Should Stop Putting Your Tomatoes In The Fridge

By Joyce Vega - 18 Oct '16 22:23PM

New research done by University of Florida researchers has uncovered the mystery of why hand-picked tomatoes often taste better compared to those found chilled at the grocery store. This research also explains why tomatoes placed in the fridge tend to lose their flavor.

According to the report published in the “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences” on Monday, it was found that the fruit’s enzymes reduce in effectiveness upon  chilling below 53.6 Fahrenheit, or 12degrees Celsius. Enzymes slow down when they go past their minimum working temperature. Because of this, they are less able at fusing volatile compounds which impart flavor to the tomato through a combination of sugars, acids and a set of 15 to 20 volatile compounds, with the possibility of there being more factors and compounds involved.

The author of the study, Harry Klee (Horticultural Sciences Professor at Florida), wrote that this would explain why many consumers perceive commercial tomatoes to be relatively bland. He pointed to the after-harvest handling system as being a large part of the problem. Chilling fruits led to this.

While storage at low temperatures decreases the rate at which the fruit decays and ripens, it also reduced the flavor quality of the fruit as the study discovered. This was because it affected significantly the volatile compounds rather than the sugars and the acids in the tomato.

In order to carry out this research, the researchers grew tomatoes in a UoF campus greenhouse and sorted out the ripe red fruits from the unripe ones. They then divided the fruits into three groups.
The tomatoes in group one were kept at 41 degrees Fahrenheit (5 degrees Celcius), at 92% humidity for 7 days. Afterwards, they were transferred to 68 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius) for one day of recovery.

The tomatoes in group two were held for 8 days at 5 degrees Celsius and without recovery at room temperature. Tomatoes in group three were tested the next day after being picked, without any form of chilling.

It was discovered that if tomatoes were exposed to the cold for about 7 day their volatility levels decreased by up to 65 percent. The volatiles in the fruit did not return to normal even after having been given short recovery periods, the study also noted.

A panel made up of consumers (76 in total) was also created to judge the taste of the tomatoes that were chilled compared to the tomatoes that were not chilled. The tomatoes in the first group were judged by taste-testers to have less taste compared to the third group fruits that had been picked the previous day.

Ultimately, Klee revealed that the research was being used to help in the making of “a better-tasting tomato” according to the team’s research page on the website for the University. How they hoped to do this would be by isolating the key genes necessary for the synthesis of flavor-inducing volatile compounds.

In other related news, tomatoes can have various beauty applications according to an article on the Huffington Post including as an acne remover, sunburn remedy, skin cleanser etc. This is due in part to the Lycopene in the tomato (key in age reversal) and its various vitamins.

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