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How Long Do Tomatoes Last?

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One of the common struggles for people when buying tomatoes is keeping them fresh for as long as possible.

Some people prefer to buy in small quantities to avoid wasting and throwing away unused, spoiled tomatoes.

Over time, that frequent grocery trip to buy fresh tomatoes every few days can take time and effort.

And if you plant these fruits, do they stay fresh longer than the store-bought tomatoes?

Exactly how long do tomatoes last?

In general, tomatoes last at room temperature for up to 1 week. But they can last in the fridge for two weeks at most. This shelf-life applies to both homegrown and store-bought tomatoes.

There are many factors that influence tomatoes’ shelf-life. And it’s not where you grow or buy these fruits that determine how quickly they spoil. In this article, we unravel everything that makes tomatoes spoil quickly and the best ways to store them. 

freshly picked tomatoes on the countertop

How to Know When to Throw Tomatoes Out

There are a few obvious signs that separate rotten tomatoes from good ones.

And you can do this by closely and thoroughly inspecting these fruits. Bad tomatoes usually have one or more of these things:

Presence of Mold

Spoiled or rotten tomatoes are generally covered in mold.

These molds may come in white, gray, or green with a fuzzy appearance. You can also slice these fruits and notice mold growing inside their flesh.

Mushy and Wrinkly Texture

While fresh, ripe tomatoes have a firm texture with glossy red skin, spoiled and rotten tomatoes have softer skin with a mushy texture.

You can evens squeeze these fruits and see that their skin may feel squishy like they are about to pop.

Even with a slight squeeze, the texture of spoiled tomatoes won’t quickly return to their original shape. In a worst-case scenario, they can break and ooze a weird-smelling liquid.

Rotten tomatoes also have wrinkly and dull skin. Plus, if there are any cuts or open cracks that slightly expose their flesh, there is a high chance that bacteria, viruses, or fungi contaminate these fruits. 

So, if you notice any of these physical signs, it’s time to throw them away.

Sour Smell

Ripe and fresh tomatoes have a neutral or subtle earthy scent.

Unlike fresh ones, spoiled tomatoes have a sour and putrid smell. These smells mostly come from damaged and rotten flesh.

woman putting tomatoes in the fridge

How to Make Tomatoes Last Longer

The best way to make tomatoes last longer is by keeping these fruits in an airtight container or a reusable vacuum bag. Then, store them inside a clean cupboard or the fridge.

Another thing to note is that ripe, unripe, and overripe tomatoes have different lifespans based on how you keep them.

For instance, unripe tomatoes last longer at room temperature, away from sunlight. 

Keeping these fruits in the fridge will slow or inhibit their ripening process. As a result, they stay unripe and turn mealy. Meanwhile, ripe and overripe tomatoes can last longer in the fridge.

The cold temperature can extend their lifespan, thus preventing these fruits from spoiling in a short time.

When keeping ripe or overripe tomatoes in the fridge, you should not place these fruits near any meat, fish, or seafood.

You can lose the freshness and quality of tomatoes when they start to take on odors from these smelly foods.  

fresh tomatoes in a wooden crate on top of a table

5 Best Ways to Store Tomatoes

Aside from the previous method, there are other best ways to store tomatoes. For instance:

Use an Airtight Container

Whether you choose to keep tomatoes in the pantry or fridge, it is always best for these fruits to have additional protection from moisture and dirt.

Put your tomatoes in airtight containers or vacuum bags before storing them away.

For sliced tomatoes, they can spoil quickly at room temperature, even if you keep them in tightly sealed bags. So, refrigerate these tomatoes quickly to maintain their quality.

Avoid Stuffing All Tomatoes in One Place

If you bought many tomatoes, don’t keep them all in one container. Too many of these fruits in a tight, overcrowded container can spoil them quickly.

When there is no gap or space between each tomato, it leads to poor airflow and rising temperatures inside the container. As a result, the increased temperature can make your tomatoes sweat, causing moisture accumulation.

These fruits will continue to suffocate until they start to rot and spoil. So, unless you keep tomatoes inside the fridge, never cramp these fruits into one tight container.

Keep Tomatoes Upside Down

It would be best if you turned tomatoes upside down when keeping them at room temperature.

The upper part, primarily the stems, has minute pores that can be passages for moisture, bacteria, and other microbes.

Similarly, if the stems aren’t exposed, moisture inside these fruits can’t dissipate, thus leaving your tomatoes fresh longer.

Wrap the Stem With Tape

Believe it or not, moisture, dirt, and bacteria can penetrate the tomatoes’ flesh through exposed stems. So, you can seal or wrap the stems with biodegradable tape.

Be sure that the stems are clean and dry before taping them.

Freeze the Tomatoes

Whether it’s ripe or sliced tomatoes, you can always extend their lifespan by keeping them in the freezer. Frozen tomatoes can last up to 1 year.

To store ripe and whole tomatoes, thoroughly wash and dry these fruits. Then, remove their stems before transferring them into a vacuum bag.

You can also do the same for sliced tomatoes. But if you want extra space for more fruits in the bag, remove their stems and fleshy core.

Lastly, lay the sliced tomatoes flat in the freezer. If you don’t place and arrange these fruits properly, they can have random weird shapes once they freeze.

fresh tomatoes in a stainless bowl beside a small knife

Final Thoughts

Storing tomatoes and keeping them fresh for a long time is quite simple. And our senses are the best tool to separate the rotten fruits from the good ones. 

What’s more important is how you choose and pick tomatoes when buying them.

If something is off even by the slightest look, touch, or smell, don’t buy them and choose better fruits.