Tomatoes Lose Flavor in the Fridge
Thanks to modern refrigeration, we can keep our food fresh longer. The problem is that the cool temperatures of the fridge don’t preserve all foods equally—as much as we’d like to believe it. People tend to throw almost everything into the fridge, assuming that it can only help. In reality, not every food item is the same chemically or physically and some will actually be harmed when refrigerated. In a few cases, foods will degrade faster in the fridge and the best case scenario is often loss of flavor.
Store-bought tomatoes never taste quite the same as tomatoes from the garden or local farm. Luckily, scientists have finally pinpointed the reason. Refrigeration actually turns off genes responsible for producing flavonoids, chemicals that contribute to the flavor of foods. When a tomato is exposed to temperatures below 54 degrees Fahrenheit, these genes begin to shut down permanently. Unfortunately, grocery store tomatoes have generally undergone refrigeration at some point, usually during the shipping process. It might be too late to save them from perpetual blandness but there’s still hope for tomatoes that were home-grown or purchased locally. Don’t store them in the fridge, just leave them on the countertop and they’ll be fine. The lost flavors from refrigeration can at least serve as a motivator for growing your own tomatoes.
For some reason, the average person feels that every single dairy item must be refrigerated immediately. Butter, however, stays solid at room temperature and takes a long time to go bad as long as it’s covered. Butter is made from pasteurized milk, which resists contamination, and the FDA states that it’s safe to keep butter at room temperature (though they don’t give a specific amount of time). Keeping butter covered on the counter for a couple of weeks is perfectly safe—you’ll only run into problems if the temperature is hot enough to melt it. The great thing about keeping butter out on the counter is that it’ll stay soft while retaining its shape. This makes it very easy to spread, eliminating frustrating toast-ruining mornings. The best plan is to keep some of your butter in a crock or other container on the counter while storing extra in the fridge, rotating it in as it’s used up.
Since potatoes are generally grouped in with vegetables, many people have a tendency to throw them into the vegetable drawer of the fridge. While potatoes should be stored in a cool, dark place when possible, the average refrigerator is too cold. The United States Potato Board (who knew that existed?) claims that storing potatoes at temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit causes the starches to convert to sugars. This changes both the coloration and flavor when the potato is later cooked. Although storing at room temperature is best, the board recommends that you store potatoes away from hot appliances and lights.
The refrigerator is a handy invention but it doesn’t automatically preserve every kind of food. Make sure to double-check when you’re not sure if something should be refrigerated. At the very least, stop refrigerating local tomatoes!
Image: photon_de (cc)