Why Refrigerated Tomatoes Lack Flavor

Ever wonder why tomatoes stored in the refrigerator lack flavor? A new study found that keeping tomatoes below 53°F (12°C) reduced the expression of several genes involved in the synthesis of flavor-imparting volatile compounds, resulting in insipid fruits. It was published in the journal PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences).

The researchers refrigerated heirloom and modern varieties of ripe red tomatoes for one to seven days. The longer the refrigeration, the greater the loss of volatile compounds. After seven days of cold, the compounds were reduced by nearly two-thirds; subsequent stor­age at room temperature didn’t restore the compounds to normal levels.

A panel of consumers judged the previously refrigerated tomatoes (after a day at room temperature) to be much less flavorful than fresh nonrefrigerated fruits. The tomatoes’ sugar and acid content, however, remained largely unchanged by refrigeration.

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