Tomatoes are a signature grocery store go-to because they can make most recipes taste fresh and robust. But when the produce has been sitting for a few days on your counter and you don’t want them to go to waste, is it worth tucking your tomatoes in the refrigerator to extend their shelf life? A new study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that storing tomatoes in the cold spot actually gets rid of their flavor.

Researchers found that chilling tomatoes — which are technically fruits — at any temperature below 12 degrees Celsius (about 54 degrees Fahrenheit) inhibits enzymes that help develop taste. Researchers stated that putting tomatoes in the refridgerator results in “relatively fresh but insipid fruits.” Harsh.

After experiencing varying refrigeration and recovery times, the tomatoes were tested by 76 volunteer consumers, who rated the chilled fruit significantly lower than ones that had been stored at room temperature. For the final step, researchers studied what was actually going on inside the cold tomatoes at a molecular level by using RNA sequencing.

Most tomatoes go through a process that's not ideal for creating flavor, the New York Times reported. They're picked early, subjected to gas to help them ripen, and then shipped. But they're better than nothing.

“It’s probably never going to equal the one that matured in your backyard over the 80 or 90 days that you grew it, but it beats stone soup” Reggie Brown  — a manager at Florida Tomato Committee, which produces up to half of America’s fresh tomatoes in the winter  —  told The New York Times.  

Source: Zhang B, Tieman DM, Jiao C, Xu Y, Chen K, Giovannoni JJ, Klee HJ, et al. Chilling-Induced Tomato Flavor Loss Is Associated With Altered Volatile Synthesis And Transient Changes In DNA Methylation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 2016.

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