by Ria Misra
Researchers in France recently undertook an analysis of just was happening to the volatiles in tomatoes stored at room temperatures, versus tomatoes in cold storage.
When stored at 68 degrees fahrenheit, they found that a ripe tomato not only maintained existing volatiles, it actually continued to produce more. In other words, the tomato's flavor just kept on getting more and more tomato-y.
When stored at 39 degrees, however, volatile production didn't just stop, existing volatiles actually began to break down. What's more, the loss in volatiles wasn't equal across the board — it was targeted. Different volatile compounds import different kinds of flavor notes. The volatiles associated with the notes typically described as "grassy" or "green" in tomatoes took an especially hard hit, which is why that "fresh picked" flavor is the first to go when a tomato sits in your refrigerator.
The loss in flavor is not purely a chemical problem, though — there's also the texture of the tomato to worry about. It turns out that, for a sensitive fruit like a tomato, temperatures don't necessarily need to drop below freezing
in order to be damaging. Anything below 50 degrees can put the tomato at risk of a chilling injury, the symptoms of which include softening and pitting. The end result? A spongy, flavorless tomato.
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