Storing tomatoes: how long do tomatoes last? (That’s how fast they really spoil)

Storing tomatoes

Storing tomatoes sounds trivial. Not at all. Because only under good storage conditions can you achieve a good shelf life for your tomatoes.

Especially when the tomato harvest is just around the corner, the question quickly arises: where to put all the fruit? Can you store tomatoes for a long time? And how long do tomatoes keep?

Read on and you will get all the answers about shelf life and keeping tomatoes fresh. It doesn’t matter whether it’s fresh from the tomato plant or canned. Here we go!

How long do tomatoes keep?

Fresh tomatoes can be kept for up to a week. The storage should take place openly in a dark, airy room between 12 – 16° Celsius. Tomatoes keep for two weeks in the refrigerator, but they lose their taste.

Longer storage of tomatoes is possible, but you must then preserve the fresh fruit. This shelf life extension by delaying chemical aging can easily be done in the home for tomatoes.

So much in advance. Now for the details.

How long do cut tomatoes keep?

Sliced ​​tomatoes can be stored in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. The tomatoes should be packed airtight in a can to limit spoilage.

However: If you look at it from the point of view of “sensible storage for a healthy diet”, you should not store sliced ​​​​tomatoes (especially no organic tomatoes with deep red skin = many healthy ingredients).

The outer skin of the fruit is the most important barrier against pests. As soon as the pulp of the tomato comes into contact with air without this protection, the rotting process begins: harmful bacteria and mold from the air attack the cell structure, which, unlike the fruit skin, they can decompose easily.

They settle in, feed and multiply splendidly, while the flesh on the outside dries out and loses its solid structure.

In any case, it is better than storing tomatoes to preserve them with household products; You will learn more about both projects in the course of the article.

Now think one step further. For cooked tomatoes, cooking should kill most of the bacteria. This should keep cooked tomatoes longer – right?

How long do cooked tomatoes keep?

It depends on.

If you put the tomatoes whole in the pot and covered this pot while heating, only a few microorganisms had access, which were immediately killed again at a heat of around 40 °C.

When the tomatoes have cooled down after cooking, each time they come into contact with air, new harmful organisms appear. Quite a lot if the cooked tomatoes were transferred from the pot to a serving bowl from which several people help themselves.

Very few if you pour the tomatoes hot into an ovenproof glass immediately after cooking (see “Preserving tomatoes” below).

Tip: If possible, boil the tomatoes again before storing them in the fridge. This is how you kill most of the germs.

Read Also: Forgot baking powder: now what? (17 cases under the magnifying glass)

How long do dried tomatoes keep?

What matters is how dry they are and whether preservative salt was added during drying.

If you bought the dried tomatoes in stores, they are usually preserved with (a lot of) salt. Salt helps with drying because it draws moisture out of fresh tomatoes.

This process, known as osmosis, also takes hold of the harmful organisms that want to settle on the still moist tomatoes while they are drying: salt is so hygroscopic (“attracts water”) that it also allows the microbes to simply penetrate the cell fluid through the cell wall, which is very delicate here pulls out of the body.

If the tomatoes have been dried down to a moisture content of around 10% in this way, they are of no interest to microorganisms. The best-before date of around 12 months is not aimed at the period from which spoilage is to be expected, but at the loss of aroma.

If tomatoes are packaged so that they don’t come into contact with moisture in the air, they will last much longer, but eventually they’ll just taste like solid, red cardboard. The packaging protects against this humidity; as soon as you open them, the salt starts osmosis again and brings moisture from the air to the dried tomatoes.

How long the sun-dried tomatoes last depends on how quickly and how thoroughly you eliminate contact with the (always humid) air. Times of between three and six months are given for average handling in a kitchen with average humidity.

In addition to dried tomatoes, there is only one tomato food with a longer best-before date. You guessed it: the tomato can. But what about opened cans of tomatoes?

How long do opened canned tomatoes last?

The same applies here as with cooked tomatoes. Because canned tomatoes were preserved by “cooking”. This cooking is called pasteurization and preserves by killing the harmful organisms through heat exposure before the airtight seal.

As soon as you open the can, the contents are colonized with new harmful organisms with every contact with the air. With the usual handling in the kitchen (the can is left open for a while while part of the can is being processed, the contents are not sealed airtight afterwards either), so many harmful organisms can accumulate in a few days that specialists no longer eat these tomatoes would.

Immediately after opening, you can pour the unused portion into a heatproof glass that has just been rinsed with boiling water. If you fill this to the brim, opened canned tomatoes can keep in the fridge for a week or two.

Tip: If you want to use up the tomatoes quickly, you can freeze them as pizza sauce. Or you can directly freeze your blank for homemade pizza !

However, you should not store the can itself for too long. Because studies repeatedly show BPA (a basic material for the production of the plastic polycarbonate) in tomato cans. For example, reports on an investigation:

The aim of the study was to determine how much BPA is transferred from the epoxy resin coating on the inside of the can to the food. Canned goods with [.] chopped and whole tomatoes were examined. The result is shocking: almost 74 percent of the food samples examined were contaminated. 

So much for the storage values ​​of the tomatoes. But to achieve this, you need to store the tomatoes correctly. Again, there are a few tricks you should know.

How do you store tomatoes?

Tomatoes are stored in shady, airy rooms between 12-16° Celsius with a humidity of 85%-80%. Tomatoes are pressure sensitive and should be stored at a distance. The shelf life is at least a week.

Unfortunately, the following applies here: If you think of storage times as with apples and potatoes when you hear the keyword “storing tomatoes”, you are using the wrong term. Fresh tomatoes are storable in this sense. But you can store them in such a way that the rapid spoilage is delayed as much as possible (for which you will receive a number of hints in a moment).

If you want to store fresh tomatoes longer, you have to preserve them, you are then storing a more or less processed tomato product (see “Tomato preservation”).

With the given values ​​for a good tomato shelf life, the refrigerator for tomatoes actually sounds like a good alternative. But is that so?

Can you store tomatoes in the fridge?

If you want to store fully ripe fresh organic tomatoes (in the sense of “storing them for a short time”), they are best kept in the refrigerator. There, the ripening process, which turns into spoilage when the fruit is fully ripe, is interrupted at temperatures below 12 °C.

The aroma will then remain for a few days – but only if the tomatoes are kept separate from other fruit/vegetables and do not absorb any odors from the rest of the fridge either.

Tomatoes are so sensitive to odors that they e.g. B. can or should only be transported in crates made of resin-free wood.

They are also very sensitive to the ethylene given off by other fruits/vegetables, particularly the avid ethylene producers bananas and honeydew melon, apricots, avocados, peaches, apples and passion fruit. As “moderate ethylene producers”, they also cause cauliflower to become soft and cucumbers to turn yellow.

If you buy tomatoes in normal shops or large chain stores, you will almost never get fully ripe fruit: these tomatoes are picked when they are quite green so that they can ripen during transport.

You can no longer achieve the full tomato aroma with this post-ripening far from the plant. But in order for them to develop at least some flavor, you have to let them ripen above 12 ° C:

How long do tomatoes keep unrefrigerated?

If you have purchased unripe tomatoes, you should let them ripen without refrigeration until they are bright red but still firm and plump. But at temperatures below 25 °C, because the synthesis of the (very healthy) red dye lycopene is inhibited.

You should also store them in an airy environment. Tomatoes are very sensitive to pressure, otherwise the tomatoes’ own evaporation increases the humidity to unfavorable levels. When the tomatoes are fully ripe, the ripening gases have to be dissipated by air circulation.

By the way, a humidity of 85% would be perfect: up to 80% humidity, the tomatoes evaporate (too) much moisture, from 90% humidity the risk of rotting and mold growth increases. If you can’t provide that in your kitchen, you should eat the tomatoes within a few days or preserve them through processing.

How do you store cut tomatoes?

Best not at all, see last paragraph. If you don’t have time to use them right away, they’re best kept in the freezer. After thawing, however, they can only be used for cooking because the freezing process bursts the cell walls of the fruit, which contains a lot of water.

So that you can be sure that you have fresh tomatoes in front of you even if you store them for a long time, I have put together a list of how you can recognize fresh tomatoes. And what bad.

How do you recognize fresh tomatoes?

The small stalk at the base of the fruit has not yet dried up at the outer end either; the five small leaflets around this stem are green and firm. The outer skin is shiny, feels plump and firm to the touch, and has almost no yielding at all under pressure. The tomatoes smell, spicy and a bit tart, but only lightly and above all pleasantly.

How do you recognize bad, spoiled tomatoes?

First because the fruit is starting to soften. The slightly soft “handle” is also the last stage at which the tomatoes should immediately go into the pot or a freezer. Because this is also the last stage in which the tomatoes (still) taste like tomatoes.

What could happen to the tomato afterwards could now be described at length and very clearly – but that would be completely pointless, because the stage “tomato begins to soften” is also the end of the good or still tolerable taste.

How do spoiled tomatoes taste?

See above, you really shouldn’t try really “mushy” tomatoes. Tomatoes contain about 95% water, and water is life – also for the many microorganisms specialized in decomposition, which happily colonize the tomatoes when the skin no longer offers a firm, closed defense.

Rearing with the use of pesticides and harvesting when unripe also compromises natural defenses, which is why tomatoes grown in ‘conventional’ farming can pick up all sorts of pests, especially when they start to ‘weaken’.

What happens if you eat spoiled tomatoes?

Usually no more than a little tummy rumbling. But “normally” means: Organic tomatoes grown in real conventional agriculture, where each tomato has enough space and grows in a colorful mix with all sorts of other plants to ward off pests.

If you have bought tomatoes from mass cultivation, which takes place in huge monocultures, unpleasant mold cultures can accumulate in the spoiled tomatoes. They can make you really sick if you eat large amounts of them. Therefore, if a dish of tomatoes like this tastes borderline, it’s best not to eat more than a few bites.

So that it doesn’t get that far in the first place, I’ve put together a list of how you can preserve tomatoes.

How can you preserve tomatoes?

In order to be able to enjoy the taste of fully ripe tomatoes for longer, the “ancient Aztecs” probably developed more than one preservation method.

You can use the tomatoes:

  • dry
  • boil down
  • freeze
  • soak in vinegar, oil or salt (brine).
  • put together your own tomato powder spices
  • cook your own ketchup full of flavor and with very little sugar

And all this with an abundance of different herbs and spices that bring in a wide variety of flavor nuances.

You can also distill tomato water for facial care or for clear tomato soups, or grow your own tomato plants in pots from the seeds of delicious organic tomatoes after an antioxidant tomato soup cure.

Tip: If you have any mozzarella left over from your last Caprese platter, you can freeze that mozzarella as well.

Conclusion: How do you store tomatoes for a good shelf life?

Tomatoes are not “shelf stable” but fresh produce intended for immediate consumption. How long fresh tomatoes can be stored depends on how fresh they are when you buy them, whether they are healthy, ripe organic goods or artificially ripened mass-produced tomatoes – and also a little on how much air you allow the unprotected pulp to get into and how many harmful organisms are in the air in your kitchen (if you clean with chemical cleaners/disinfectants, there could be a lot because these biocides also decimate the beneficial microorganisms in your household that keep harmful organisms in check). But tomatoes can be preserved very well, there are thousands of processing ideas.